This is an excerpt from my ebook 25 Things They Should Have Taught You In Medic School… But Didn’t available now on Amazon
Working In EMS Means Working Odd Hours
Dolly Parton defined the workday for American society in her 1980’s song “9 to 5”. She wrote the song for her film debut in the movie “Nine to Five” that also starred Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin. The plot of the movie sees the three actresses as office workers who, through the course of comedic events (including attempted murder and kidnapping), usurp the job of their obnoxiously evil boss.
They did not work in EMS.
Many EMS systems are designed around a model called System Status Management (SSM). It was introduced in the 1980s by Jack Stout as part of the Public Utility Model for EMS systems. SSM has become the most widely accepted management methodology for EMS resources. The fundamental concept has two major pieces that shape the lives of the Medics it manages, Peak Demand Staffing and Dynamic Deployment.
Peak Demand Staffing requires schedules that put the appropriate number of resources into the system to meet the anticipated demand for those resources. Shifts (often referred to as tours by some agencies) in EMS can vary widely depending on where you are in the country, the demands on the system, and the type of agency that you belong to. Your shift can be as short as 4 hours and as long as 24 hours. I haven’t heard of an agency with a 36- or 48-hour shift but I wouldn’t be surprised that it exists somewhere.
Demands on the system often dictate the schedule type and shift times for an agency. Agencies in urban centers often see peak call volumes during the “9 to 5” timeframe, when the urban centers are open for business and people are at work. Agencies serving suburban areas may see peak call volumes both before AND after the “9 to 5” timeframe, catching the members of the community before they travel to their workplace in an urban center and after they return home from a typical “9 to 5” job.
Dynamic Deployment becomes utilized once you are already on the shift. Depending on probability trended over time, your unit will be assigned a posting or a place at rest. This location is considered to be in an area where there will be a demand in the immediate to near future. As units are assigned calls and the day progresses, these postings will change with the probability of a need increasing or decreasing. A truly dynamic system will see the fluid movement of units from posting to posting to ensure the entire area is covered with maximum efficiency.
There are still some archaic Static System models out there. These systems schedule a set number of resources repeatedly without concern for changes in demand. Some of these systems will utilize a rotating schedule model. This type of schedule has shift changes pre-determined in a set pattern. Responders are usually broken into groups (sometimes labeled platoons) and rotate through days and possibly also time slots.
Expecting to work “9 to 5” for most EMTs can be ranked as an absolute fantasy, especially if you’re coming straight out of school with little to no experience or seniority. Expect to be working the shifts no one wants in your area, including the very real possibility of nights, weekends, and don’t forget holidays. While regular businesses may close, EMS is a 24/7/365 profession.
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