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


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 (www.facebook.com/theambulancedriverfiles), or email him at kelly.grayson@ems1.com.

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