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5 signs the last EMS crew had a bad shift

In EMS, shift change is one of the biggest indicators of how the rest of the day is going to go.


By Sean Eddy, EMS1 Contributor

We never wish bad things on the off-going crew, but there is a belief that a busy shift the day before means an easy shift today. We like to see the streets and neighborhoods looking like a ghost town as we drive to work. That usually indicates that everyone was already taken to the hospital and there’s nobody left for us to transport. Like I said, we hate to wish bad things on our counterparts, but you know…

There are many indicators that the previous crew had a bad shift. Here are my top 5:

1. The dispatcher has been placed in protective custody.

Never shoot the messenger, unless the messenger is an EMS dispatcher. It doesn’t matter who called 911, it’s the dispatcher’s fault that the EMS crew was busy. It doesn’t have to make sense, it’s just the rules. When you arrive for work to see police barricades around the comm center and Secret Service agents escorting dispatchers to their cars, you can be assured the previous crew had a busy shift. Be sure to use caution because you are at fault for the last call since you didn’t arrive 90 minutes early for work to relieve the off-going crew.

2. The tarp used to move large people was removed from its packaging.

To put this into perspective, these tarps typically have a weight capacity of 1,000lbs. While these are an extremely valuable asset, they are never used in ideal situations. These patients almost always find themselves in the most difficult-to-access locations known to man. On top of that, they almost always require movement down at least one set of stairs. Nobody walks away from these calls saying “man, that wasn’t so bad.”

3. The ambulance isn’t in the bay when you arrive to work.

This means that the off-going crew got a late call. This is quite possibly the most dreaded call of the shift and no matter what time the call comes in, the crew is going to look around the station, then look at their watch before asking where the hell you are. They already hate you and you haven’t even said good morning yet.

4. The off-going crew is sitting at the computer writing charts.

This almost always indicates that the crew ran calls all night. This also means that they’re not leaving anytime soon and you’re going to have to listen to them complain about their shift for at least another two hours. Just keep their coffee cups topped off and don’t make eye contact.

5. You notice an incident command post in front of the nursing home.

This means that the doctor showed up to make his once-every-six-month visit and wrote a list of patient transport orders long enough that it had to be rolled out on a scroll. Since everyone’s week-long ailment became an emergency on Tuesday morning at 07:00, your service wound up with so many calls for service that a state-of-emergency had to be declared. Chances are, FEMA is en route and strike teams are being deployed.

The good news? You’re going to have a good shift.

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