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Home > Columnists > Kelly Grayson
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The Ambulance Driver's Perspective
by Kelly Grayson

Top 10 subtle signs your EMS agency isn't a proud community partner

#10: The occupational licenses posted at your ambulance stations list the type of business as "Chauffeur/ taxi service."

By Kelly Grayson

Updated May 20, 2014

Normally I am alerted to the approach of EMS Week by the high pollen count and the sharp increase in drunken, sunburned revelers we pull from the area lakes and rivers about this time every year. Nothing says, "It's time to celebrate those heroes in EMS!" like a Budweiser-besotted redneck with a negative tooth-tattoo ratio, professing his love for your chosen profession between retches and slurred protestations that "this %^$& collar thang is too tight on mah neck!" 

But since I started seeing guys like that way back in April, I lost track of the passing days until EMS Week was right around the corner. I'm blaming it all on global warming.

EMS Week is as much about being celebrated as it is about showing our communities that we're here to work alongside them. And to show Joe Sixpack and Suzy Soccermom what good community partners we are, EMS crews around the country will spend the week … well, taking blood pressures at Wal Mart like we always do, I guess. We are nothing if not predictable.

But after all the politicians have made their proclamations, the leftover barbecue has been consumed and the local ER nurses have lost all the snazzy pens and trinkets you've handed out, how do we know that our community really considers us a proud partner? Or just as importantly, that they don't?

In that vein, I give you the Top Ten Subtle Signs Your Agency Isn't A Proud Community Partner:

The occupational licenses posted at your ambulance stations list the type of business as "Chauffeur/ taxi service."
Whenever the newspaper photographer shows up at a wreck scene, your medics are always identified in the next day's edition as "unidentified bystander in reflective vest."
Your agency's 911 ambulance contract has the company name handwritten in a blank space labeled in subscript, "Insert name of funeral home here."
The local chapter of MADD stages a mock crash during Operation Prom Week, and the ambulances used are from your competitor in the neighboring county.
Your son tells you that you've been bumped from your spot speaking to his grade school class on Career Day in favor of Jimmy Miller's dad, who owns a turtle farm.
The city finally opens the new ambulance station they've promised you for years, and the ribbon-cutting ceremony consists of your Operations Manager borrowing your trauma shears to cut through the tape labeled, "Crime Scene: Do Not Cross."
Your new sprint truck first saw service life with the county highway its road kill cleanup vehicle.
Your booth assignment at the local job fair is sandwiched between the taxidermy school and the diesel driving academy.
The local ER throws an EMS Week barbecue and invites the local fire department and your on-duty ambulance crew…and then sends the crew on an inter-facility transfer halfway through their meal.
In response to the swine flu panic, the public health department hands out N-95 respirators to all local emergency healthcare personnel…but a significant number of the masks issued to your agency bear lipstick marks and smell faintly of cologne.

Happy EMS Week, folks, and beware of Sumdood! He's still out there, and he's only getting stronger…

About the author

Kelly Grayson, NREMT-P, CCEMT-P, is a critical care paramedic in Louisiana. He has spent the past 18 years as a field paramedic, critical care transport paramedic, field supervisor and educator. He is a former president of the Louisiana EMS Instructor Society and board member of the LA Association of Nationally Registered EMTs.

He is a frequent EMS conference speaker and contributor to various EMS training texts, and is the author of the popular blog A Day In the Life of an Ambulance Driver. The paperback version of Kelly's book is available at booksellers nationwide. You can follow him on Twitter (@AmboDriver) or Facebook (, or email him at

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John W. Doty John W. Doty Wednesday, May 21, 2014 3:54:24 PM We have a bigger problem coming around the commercial EMS loses the proud and community oriented volunteers that built and maintained the NYS EMS system for that last 100 years or so, we are now gaining green as they come EMS Professionals whom have no idea what community, respect, trust and even quality of care means let alone reaching out to the communities we serve. The underlying angst which is now creeping into the EMS system has created a paradigm shift of gross commercialism which money and profit are the theme not the necessarily the person. The focus is now me or I and how can I survive, instead of the absolute ability to serve without having to worry about the "money aspect of things" Not to say there are not still good hearted EMS professionals still out there but they are dwindling. Since the individual EMS Provider has little say about there organization and how its run, is a catastrophic blow to the TEAM concept a lot of us grew up in. Since we have little choice in the matter anymore about commercial EMS it is a Top down issue that needs to be re-addressed to all for profit and non-profit career agencies alike that we still serve our community. There is a difference in attitude between wanting to serve, having to serve and/or needing to serve. Since career EMS is still marginalized as a career, EMS providers are burdened with figuring out there survival while trying help others to survive. On the other hand the Communities continue to fail to realize how important we are to them. Failure to pass budgets and taxes to Aid there own EMS system is a slap in the face to all Providers that are ask to walk into there homes to attempt to save there loved one. Oh then we are considered important enough. NYS needs to realize that commercial EMS is the wave of the future and it needs to be funded equally like any service that is provided for. Your average cost for 1 - 24 hour a day ALS Crew with an ambulance is $250,0000 at least. No way around it for what we provide. Some Agency call volumes are as high as 10,000 calls a year plus. We are busy and will only get busier. Yet we still don't have enough rigs and staff on the streets in some areas. Most of us still can't afford health insurance or have it from a job, let alone being able to work a 40 hour week and be home at a decent hour to spend with our families. No we are working 80 to 100 hours a week if we can to make ends meet. See a problem here?... anywhere? and that's just scratching the surface.
Denise Moch Cuillo Denise Moch Cuillo Thursday, May 22, 2014 4:37:14 AM I disagree wholeheartedy. I discovered my love for this field as a volunteer, and shortly thereafter decided it would be wonderful to do what I love for a living- I know this makes me less of a medic, but I've always felt it was a good choice. I'm not sure why collecting a paycheck means I'm less apt to be proud of my profession, my community, or that I'm less dedicated to my patients. I'm not sure why fighting for educational equivalents, living wages and decent health insurance would cause me to be less professional. And I don't remember volunteers being then only factor in molding the system. This is the type of closed minded stereotypical babble that holds EMS back. Do you feel paid fire departments are less apt to be professional and dedicated? How about paid police departments? Maybe if the hospitals would only staff volunteer nurses and doctors, patient care would improve? And maybe those volunteers could then complain about the advanced educational requirements, reminding us all that they shouldn't be expected to dedicate more time and effort...after all, they are volunteers. It IS unfair to expect them to attend classes on their own time... what keeps ALL of us from participating in the community is the attitude that the paid service provider is merely a vendor, neither worthy nor willing to be a part of that community, which couldn't be further from the truth. And it is not the paid services pushing out the volunteers...that's the system, the hospital wait times, the call volumes and increased demands on the lives of those individuals. And the truth of the matter is there is still room for both to work together, to supplement each other rather than compete...but first, the name calling needs to stop.

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