Make this page my home page
  1. Drag the home icon in this panel and drop it onto the "house icon" in the tool bar for the browser

  2. Select "Yes" from the popup window and you're done!

Home > EMS News
All Articles

The Ambulance Driver's Perspective
by Kelly Grayson

Top 10 signs your EMS dispatcher hates you

If you've ever wondered if your dispatcher is an evil genius bent on breaking your spirit, here are 10 ways to tell

By Kelly Grayson

Disclaimer: This column is not meant to be disparaging to dispatchers. I love dispatchers. They’re wonderful people. I especially love MY dispatchers. They're handsome, articulate, and they smell nice - even over the radio. In fact, they’re the best dispatchers in the whole darned world. Especially if they’re reading this.

I've always held the opinion that there are three types of EMS dispatchers.

Type A dispatchers are the pleasant but benignly incompetent ones who screw you over by accident. Getting mad at them doesn't work, because bless their heart, they're also too dull-witted to recognize sarcasm over the radio.

Type B dispatchers are the malevolent geniuses who have thoroughly mastered your agency's deployment and dispatch system. They can simultaneously field a dozen calls and keep track of all their units, play solitaire on the computer, and eat a combo burrito without spilling chili on their shirts. When they screw you over, it is with malice aforethought. You anger a Type B dispatcher at your peril.

And then there are the Type C dispatchers. They combine the best qualities of Type A and Type B: they're pleasant, funny, supremely competent, and they take care of their ambulance crews…

… but they all work the other shift.

I had occasion to make that observation to my partner the other night after she groused that dispatch seemed to be treating us as if we were the only ambulance in the parish. We got one call after another, sandwiched between innumerable post changes. We put 250 miles on our rig, and never left town.

I explained to her that we were dealing with a Type A dispatcher, because invariably the Type B dispatchers have enough seniority to avoid the night shift.

If you've ever wondered if your dispatcher is an evil genius bent on breaking your spirit, here are a 10 ways to tell if your dispatcher hates you:

All the other crews get posted in clean, well-lit locations with good Wi-Fi signals. You, on the other hand, get posted behind the spooky abandoned building that looks suspiciously like the Bates Motel. But the people you meet there are so… interesting!

Whenever other crews make a wrong turn, the dispatcher is watching the vehicle tracking display, and notifies them promptly with a course correction. You get notifications, too… written ones, routed through your supervisor a few days later.

You notice that, in addition to the Drivecam, your ambulance is fitted with several more tiny cameras that all point outward, to let the dispatcher know when you get out of the rig for a meal.

You discover a proximity sensor in your pager that automatically notifies dispatch whenever you get within 12 inches of a large amount of porcelain – like in a toilet or urinal. And yours, it turns out, are on a 30-second delay.

You pay a visit to the dispatch center to schmooze and bring donuts, and you notice that the ENTER key on your dispatcher's keyboard has been relabeled PUNK AMBULANCE 506.

While other crews seem to get the easy standby assignments like rodeos or drag races or the prolonged hostage standoff that takes all shift, you get the Golden Acres Convalescent Home bingo tournament and senior Olympics.

Other dispatchers have small personal touches of home at their consoles: pictures of family, inspirational sayings, small plants. Your dispatcher has a voodoo doll that looks suspiciously like you.

You notice that odd background noise you hear whenever you are given a posting assignment is the sloshing of a Magic 8 Ball.

Other crews and their dispatchers socialize on their days off. Your dispatcher's kids toilet paper your house every weekend.

When the Emergency Department gives you a heads-up about two upcoming long-distance transfers, and you volunteer for one of them… dispatch gives you the incontinent one with C. diff diarrhea and necrotic foot ulcers.

If you laughed at this Top 10 list, you've probably been tortured by a dispatcher in the past. If you didn't, you probably are a dispatcher.

But hopefully not mine!

Editor's note: Hey dispatchers! Think Kelly's missed the mark? Why don't you tell us all the ways medics annoy you in the comments below. Keep things civil, folks!

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

The comments below are member-generated and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of or its staff. If you cannot see comments, try disabling privacy and ad blocking plugins in your browser. All comments must comply with our Member Commenting Policy.
Danielle Davis Danielle Davis Thursday, May 22, 2014 9:14:09 AM Don't forget the statistical improbability of having at least 5 go home stairchairs the entire shift while the BLS units only do 4 calls
Ed Hillenbrand Ed Hillenbrand Thursday, May 22, 2014 9:51:26 AM What is worse is when your partner cross trains as a dispatcher and can look you in the eye and: "Sorry, you are the only unit available." for this 2 hour bariatric trip 15 minutes before the end of tour WITH your replacement crew in station. Ex-partner I mean. ; )
Julie Wexler Julie Wexler Thursday, May 22, 2014 6:12:01 PM Nope.....nailed it!
John Sorensen John Sorensen Thursday, May 22, 2014 9:43:30 PM Getting told by dispatch that you are the only medic crew to do a 3 hour 1 way trip starting 2 hours before the end of your shift; because the crews that get off later than you do REFUSED to do it. and if you try to refuse you will be suspended
Randy Chow Randy Chow Thursday, May 22, 2014 9:48:00 PM Been there ( both sides) done that. ..and I laughed
Dana Elling Molenda Dana Elling Molenda Friday, May 23, 2014 5:42:20 AM I'm a dispatcher and here's my motto: I don't make 'em, I just take 'em.
Tendayi Mashati Tendayi Mashati Saturday, May 24, 2014 7:43:17 AM I m a dispatcher, Type B, from your description, and I do my job without favour. The 10 points of hatred you stated above are your opinion and not facts. Thank you.
Sarah Burns Sarah Burns Tuesday, May 27, 2014 10:10:14 PM Damn, you were on that call with me?
Adam Santiago Adam Santiago Sunday, September 28, 2014 6:10:57 AM Ya you're definitely a dispatcher. Can't take a joke
Dan Rasey Dan Rasey Sunday, September 28, 2014 6:20:26 AM Having been on both sides of this coin. ...A lot of medics are whiney asses and some dispatchers are sadistic morons who get off on torturing their best crews ...
Jimmy English Jimmy English Sunday, September 28, 2014 6:39:44 AM still doing both sides if it feels like your dispatch is picking on you think about this you may be the ones they know they can count on without all crying and whining about doing the job your paid to do
John D Lamb John D Lamb Sunday, September 28, 2014 6:42:49 AM Comments please .....
Russ Lacy Russ Lacy Sunday, September 28, 2014 6:48:24 AM I got so mad at getting off late every day that when they gave me a L-D one hour before getting off, what balls I.e. long distance transport I just said I am sick and went home.
Courtney Bookstaver Courtney Bookstaver Sunday, September 28, 2014 6:53:46 AM having done all sides, ambulance, dispatch, law enforcement dispatch, I have come to the conclusion that we ALL are whiney babies and its a love hate relationship. I love my cops, I loved my dispatchers (for the most part), but as a dispatcher I am the A & B Combo and yes I work the "wrong shift" and get told that daily. lol, its a funny article and anyone who has done this job any amount of time would laugh (providing you have a sense of humor).
Jimmie Robin Gwin Jimmie Robin Gwin Sunday, September 28, 2014 7:07:36 AM Lmao loved it!!!
Kristina Cowart Royal Kristina Cowart Royal Sunday, September 28, 2014 7:19:43 AM OMG ! These are so true!!!!!!!!! Need to add one more type to the list. Type D- doesn't know the coverage area and refuses to learn it. Refuses to get an additional information to help find patient. Gets mad a you when you can't find the patient (There were 5 little towns in our county and all of them had a rural route 1, box 22, for example. They didn't see the point in finding out which town, that was our job. We should know our coverage area.)
Jane Baier Warren Jane Baier Warren Sunday, September 28, 2014 7:28:25 AM This can apply to police dispatchers too. I will admit, who of us behind the mike doesn't have that lovely voodoo doll.
Angela Fields Angela Fields Sunday, September 28, 2014 7:48:26 AM I have worked Ems, and I also spent many years as a dispatcher for fire, ems, and law enforcement. How about the dispatcher that makes up his/her own 10-codes and you can only understand every other word that he/she says and then gets made when you ask her to repeat it? On the flip side, i was working ems one day and had to get the dispatcher to repeat the address 3 times simply because i wasn't paying attention to what she said. I caught h!$@ when i got to work at dispatch the next day. Lol
Michael Bruce Michael Bruce Sunday, September 28, 2014 8:21:47 AM For almost 4 decades I have been at the mercy of the voice on that little box. There are times they are my guardian angels and then there are times devil of evil themselves . I go by a few rules, I don't question that voice sometimes they have more info and intel that i have . So what seems stupid on my end actually makes sense. I only can do one call at a time, although dispatch thinks otherwise. I will go on the next call when the current patient iis off my stretcher and i have supplies even thrown in a papper bag or pillow case so i can run the next call . ( I leave the explaining to the super or boss to them why I'm 4 calls behind in paperwork) I don't plan on being anywhere after my shift so if a late job come in. I think KOOL OSCAR TANGO TIME. ( AGAIN IF OT IS INCURRED IN A ZERO OT TOLERANCE SYSTEM, I WILL LET DISPATCH EXPLAIN WHY I WAS SENT ON A 4 HOUR TRANSPORT 15 MINUTES BEFORE THE END OF MY TOUR.) I don't whine , I don't complain just do one call at a time and at times I will SMH at the evils of that little box where that sometimes evil voice comes from. Just like the responding side the dispatch has their share of EVIL ASSHOLES. Best way to deal with them don't feed on their offerings. DON'T QUESTION WHY JUST GET IN THE AMBULANCE AND GO FOR THE RIDE. At the end of the shift go home safe
Crystal Smith Crystal Smith Sunday, September 28, 2014 8:33:48 AM Working both on the truck and in irritates the crap out of me when we are stood down and one of my trucks doesn't clear their end destination and instead goes to get food. or when a supervisor forgets that I know what I'm doing, and try to tell me how to do my job, but has no clue as to the whereabouts of our rigs! How about you jus make me some coffee and let me dispatch...mmmk?
Walter Waganka Walter Waganka Sunday, September 28, 2014 12:50:14 PM There is nothing quite the love shared between a crew and their dispatcher. It is like a love/hate relationship with consequences. ;)
Manny Mwila Manny Mwila Sunday, September 28, 2014 1:47:06 PM and usually no benefits.
Andrew Kahananui Andrew Kahananui Sunday, September 28, 2014 3:37:05 PM Unfortunately, I have had partners dispatch hated, and I got punished right along with them.
Munique Robinson Munique Robinson Sunday, September 28, 2014 4:29:24 PM I've been on both sides of the radio as well, and while both sides can make mistakes, the only ones who truly know what's going on is.... NOBODY. Both sides see what they see, both sides know what they know. I can never know exactly how the traffic is out there, and they don't know how many calls come in that we cannot turn down. Sometimes there is nothing you can do to fix it. I will say, the best way to understand both sides and build better relationships: work both sides at least for a few months. Also, I worked that overnight shift, but it was by choice- so much less stress to work alone, and for the most part my crews loved me- we had our scrapes, but we got along at the end of the day. Good article.
Lumott Coleman Lumott Coleman Monday, September 29, 2014 11:30:17 AM I was that dispatcher lmao but only to the young bucks who just got of school and thought they knew it all and were gonna save the world.
Becky Harvey McCallister Becky Harvey McCallister Monday, September 29, 2014 8:27:55 PM wait that was my call,, on fri., sat, sun, mon, wed, thur,, (hmm I didn't work tue, or fri.
Tracy Dyer Tracy Dyer Monday, September 29, 2014 9:20:04 PM An Intelligent Response From a Dispatcher Whose Been Around a While. I would humbly and sincerely like to invite every one of you crews to put your mouth where your... well, mouth is. There'd be no monetary pay here, but your relationship with your dispatcher will be forever changed after this challenge. As intelligent as you are about our job, you shouldn't have any problem accomplishing this: All you have to do is sit in our chair for two hours. Mic'd up and on the air live, You'll make all the decisions about managing system status; where to post units and whom to select for calls, all while copying your crews on air and physically entering status updates. We will not let you sink--we love you and would never do that to you. You'll be hooked up to a Training Y which means we can hear everything you hear and say, and we'll be most diligent to catch you when you fall--and you will fall but we'll fix you immediately--and you'll carry on. We'll be there silently, but the decision-making will be you you you. When three 911 calls drop at once we won't help, we will look at you and say, Quick, Obi Wan, make your selections and get 'em dispatched. When crew A clears the hospital, and crew B clears the same hospital ten seconds later, and crew A is on their eighth chart but the rules say they get the Psyche outta there because they cleared first... we will look you in your oh-so-wise eyeball and say whatcha gon' do, my friend? When crew C calls (or texts, if he really thinks he's special) to ask why they're going to the east side when they KNOW crew D is already out there, we will let you stop and drop everything you're doing, go off track, and explain to them that there is a scheduled call holding for three hours on the east side and THEY make the levels you need now for crew D to run it. (Explaining the contents of your three to six flat screen monitors to the armchair-dispatchers in the field is loads of fun, you will love it. Especially fun after the 10th or 11th time... ) Even though we know you can do our job better than us, we'll be polite hosts and won't make you perform your call taking tasks while simultaneously dispatching crews and managing system status. We'll do all that for you... and, if you bring us chocolate, we might even show you how we manage to drop calls on you and you alone regardless of where in the county you are. All night long point of fact. As a bonus we'll even show you how we convince people in your direction of travel to call 911 precisely when you get into an area. We'll select a MARK for the night, then show you how we line the stars up so that everyone else scores an outlying post except our MARK--we'll show you how we manipulate traffic patterns, road construction, hospital delays or diverts, even flagging do-gooders and walk-ups-- to keep our MARK circling the inner-core posts (the toilet bowl, the mutant triangle, the Zone...) because our MARK is going down baby. And that which you fear and loathe the most, you'll play a part in--(you'll be sickened to participate but your morbid fascination will prohibit you from stopping). You'll be a part of: A CREW GETTING SCREWED. You'll watch in amazement, and you'll marvel at our powers over the moon and the stars. You'll leave a better man. You'll leave a bigger man. You will have reached the seventh level of enlightenment; Presence Spontaneously Perfected by the EMS by the gods of EMS and of Radio. PAF would do it. Two hours. Take the challenge.
Natasha Hubbard Natasha Hubbard Tuesday, September 30, 2014 3:18:11 AM I find it funny...but I also find it written by someone who apparently knows nothing about what happens in dispatch. I've been doing this for 14 years and never once have I had the opportunity to "punish" a unit b/c I chose to do so. MY system (please note I said my system...I don't need 237 comments telling me it's not the same everywhere, I already know this) is set up so that the backup for certain zones is automatically pre-determined...unless everybody else is on a call, the one that's supposed to get it does. Out of town transfers right before you're supposed to go home? Yeah, your supervisor told me to "go ahead and give it" to you. So sorry, but no, I'm not picking on any of you...I'm just doing my job. And before whoever that oh so helpful person that commented on someone else's post says it...the first words of my comment were "I find it funny." This mean, yes, I do have a sense of humor. Just pointing out some misconceptions that are out there about a dispatcher and how we go about doing what we do.
There's a Bug in My Coffee There's a Bug in My Coffee Tuesday, September 30, 2014 6:22:22 AM Been on both sides of this topic, too. Couldn't agree more. Was on a final run of the day, WAY out of our area after a 24 shift and dispatch tried to send our ALS rig on a routine BLS run. She had no idea we were the out-going crew and that the new crew was sitting at the station waiting for a rig. SMH. I, on the other hand was a type B. :)

EMS1 Offers

Breaking EMS News

Get the #1 EMS eNewsletter

Fire Newsletter Sign up for our FREE email roundup of the top news, tips, columns, videos and more, sent 3 times weekly
Enter Email
See Sample

Connect with EMS1

Mobile Apps Facebook Twitter Google+

Online Campus Both

EMS Videos