Top Ten Ways to Tell the Economy is Affecting Your EMS System

By Kelly Grayson

Today’s economic climate is downright scary. Things are so grim that yesterday at Home Depot, they were giving away a free bank with every toaster purchase. But whenever I fear that my job may be in jeopardy, all I need to do is tune into C-SPAN and watch the antics of our Congressmen. It reassures me that stupidity is eternal.

And where there is stupidity, there will be EMS, relied upon to pick up the pieces.

Heck, given Congress’ penchant for rewarding poor decisions with bailout money, EMS is starting to look like a real growth industry.

But as promising as the “stupidification” of the United States looks to our job prospects, there is no denying that the current economy does affect EMS to some degree. For example, many of us work for taxpayer-funded departments, and tax revenues are plummeting almost as fast as the IQ of your average senator. Cities and counties are cutting costs, and fire, police and EMS jobs may be next on the chopping block.

So, if you’re unsure of the stability of your EMS system, I give you the following clues that your employer may be on shaky financial ground:

Your department still sends you to major EMS conferences...but with exhibit hall passes only. And the boss orders you to ''come back with enough schwag to stock all the trucks.''
The new trauma bags for your truck have ''EMS EXPO 2005'' embroidered on them.
Your system’s CFO starts hoarding canned food and shotguns.
Your new analgesia protocol consists of a whittled stick and instructions for the patient to ''bite down hard.''
The addition of Plavix to your ACS protocol has been scrapped in favor of medical leeches.
When having maintenance done on your truck, your fleet mechanic tells you, “Brakes, siren or tires. Pick any two.”
The fire department saves all of the used cooking oil from the EMS Week fish fry for conversion to bio-diesel.
You’ve heard your managers refer to your trucks as rolling billboards numerous times, but you start your shift one day to discover that they have actually become rolling billboards. Now you promote job security of future EMTs by driving the #79 Anheuser Busch/Hardee's ambulance. And on the ceiling above the ambulance cot, there’s a decal that says, “If you can read this, you may be entitled to a substantial cash settlement! Call 1-800-SUE-THEM and we’ll get you paid!”
The local nursing home catches your operations manager lacing cans of Ensure with antifreeze, while muttering something about “needing more dialysis patients.”
Your new trainee paramedic looks suspiciously like the CEO of General Motors.

If you’ve spotted any of these telltale signs at your service, it may be time to seek that rewarding career in the fast food service industry while there are still jobs to be had.

Or you could always run for Congress. God knows we need some better qualified ones.

About the author

Kelly Grayson, NRP, CCEMT-P, is a critical care paramedic in Louisiana. He has spent the past 24 years as a field paramedic, critical care transport paramedic, field supervisor and educator. He is president of the Louisiana Society of EMS Educators and a 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. Kelly's books are available on his author page at You can follow him on Twitter (@AmboDriver) or Facebook, or email him at Kelly is a member of the EMS1 Editorial Advisory Board.

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