Dealing With Firefighters When Testing
You’re in your ambulance with your paramedic partner driving code 3 to a difficulty breathing patient. You get there, pull the gurney out of the back and proceed to the door. Wheeling the gurney in, you start to look around the house at the patient’s belongings until you make it to the bedroom where four firefighters are staring at you, plus a patient sitting there on O2.
“Hey guys!” you say as you go to help the elderly patient to the gurney.
You’re met with an arm blocking your helping hand. It’s one of the firefighters.
“Go stand next to the gurney, EMT.” The Firefighter mutters as he assists the patient up himself and they slowly make their way across the room.
You help with buckling up the patient and wheeling her out to the ambulance where you open the doors and slowly put her into the back.
“Easy!” The same Firefighter shouts.
You glance at him, because you didn’t know that you did anything wrong and ask what the matter was.
He just stares at you and shakes his head as he walks away.
“This ambo company can’t find any good ones, can they?!” he mutters as he walks over to his crew who is finishing charting by the ambo side door.
You take a deep breath and walk over to the crew and politely ask what hospital you will be transporting to.
The Firefighter who has been on you the whole call doesn’t even look at you and says, “closest one.”
“Oh cool, Valley Central it is!” you reply, assuming that is the closest facility. After all you’re just moved into this EMT spot for the day and you’re not familiar with this area.
“Are you kidding me?! How long have you been here, and you don’t even know the area?” says the Firefighter raising his voice.
“My bad Firefighter Smith,” you reply, “I’m just working here for the day.”
“Just, go get up front and take us to Valley East Hospital.”
You nod and walk up to the front of the ride, buckle up and look back to make sure everyone is ready to go through the viewing window. As you turn around to see you’re already met face to face by Firefighter Smith who asks what’s taking so long.
You apologies and put the ambulance into drive. As you’re driving, you notice the road is pretty rough for this area and you’re doing your best to avoid the bumps and potholes.
“Hey, watch the road man!” you hear, as Firefighter Smith works his head through the small viewing window.
“You’re throwing us all over the place back here!”
You didn’t think your driving was that bad but now you’re being extra cautious, as to make sure you don’t hit any bumps in the road.
You make it about halfway to the hospital when Firefighter Smith pops his head through the window again and says “Hey let’s get a move on and go code 3. The patient’s SATS are dropping.”
“Copy that,” you reply and begin to drive code 3 to the hospital.
You are a few hundred feet away from pulling into the hospital when you clear an intersection with a red light. As you come to a full stop, you look left and right, back and forth to make sure no one is driving through and yielding to you, you start to proceed through the intersection. At the very last moment, a vehicle coming from the north that wasn’t paying attention to their surroundings, blows the light and drives right by you forcing you to slam on the breaks as to avoid collision.
“Hold on!” you yell as loud as you can to warn everyone about the quick stop.
All you can hear in the back is cursing with your name attached to it. You pull up to the hospital and open up the back doors of the ambulance as you’re met with a very red-faced Firefighter Smith. You wheel the patient into the hospital, unload and head out to the ambulance to clean.
“What’s your name?!” Firefighter Smith says, walking out the hospital doors.
“Jeff,” you reply, as you try to explain how sorry you are for the quick stop and that it wasn’t even your fault.
You’re instantly cut off with, “Well Jeff, I just want you to know I’m calling your field supervisor and asking that they never send you to this ride again. I’ve never had such a bad ambo driver. You’re lucky you didn’t kill us.”
You try to apologies again, and Firefighter Smith just walk away.
Have you ever had an experience like this?
Working on an ambulance, you’re bound to run into the fire department at least once or twice in your career. Depending on the city you work in, you may see them on every EMS call. The problem is, disgruntled Firefighters are everywhere and running into one is only a matter of time.
Working firsthand with them, you know that not all of them are like Firefighter Smith in the story above. A lot of them are really nice to you and treat you like a human being. They engage in conversations and even try to show you things you didn’t know about EMS. Unfortunately for people trying to get hired with the fire department or lack thereof, there are definitely people like Firefighter Smith out there. I have met a lot of them. The only good part about people like this is that they want nothing to do with you. So let them have their wish.
It doesn’t matter whether you work on ambulance or not and are trying to get hired. People like Smith are discouraging to younger generations trying to get picked up. It’s a problem that I as a rider and EMT went through while trying to get hired. It’s not letting them get to you that’s the trick. This can be harder than it sounds depending on the severity of the Firefighter.
There are a few things you need to ask yourself when you’re in a situation like this.
Are you ever going to see this person again?
If the answer is yes, do your best to explain your side and if he doesn’t want to listen that’s his problem. You did everything you could. Cover all your bases, including the ones with your supervisor.
If the answer is no, then don’t worry about it. That guy is having a bad day and is probably just a dick to begin with.
Are you actively trying to get hired by FD?
If the answer is yes, remember your reputation with the Fire Department starts before you even get hired. If you come off as rude to him, he will tell a Firefighter who knows another Firefighter who knows someone you’re in contact with. Not even the speed of light is faster than gossip through Firefighters. The problem is, this firefighter already thinks you’re incompetent, when you are clearly not. As long as you are not outright defiant against him or the others you shouldn’t have a problem. Just don’t engage. Again, cover your bases.
If the answer is no and you won’t get fired, tell that guy where to stick it. Someone probably should have a long time ago.
Is this Firefighter going to be a problem in the future?
If the answer is yes hopefully it’s not because he works in the city, you’re trying to get hired in. If that is the case, again, due your due diligence. This dude doesn’t want to hear excuses from you. His head is stuck so far up his own ass all he can see, and smell is shit. So, nothing you say that sounds like an excuse is going to get through to him. Apologies. No, you didn’t do anything wrong. You know it, your medic partner knows it, and the Firefighter knows it too. It’s called covering your bases.
If the answer is no, apologies anyway. Even if this guy doesn’t know anyone, there is a possibility the other Firefighters on his crew do. They’re watching as well. Them seeing you put up with his bull shit goes along way.
Being someone who is testing for the Fire department can be tricky and frustrating. There is a ton of new information to learn if you’re not familiar with the field or the culture. Running into people like Firefighter Smith is bound to happen. It’s your job to not get discouraged by people like this. Yes, that guy is a pain in your ass and probably to a few of his crewmate’s as well. The thing to remember is that you don’t want to let him come between you and getting hired. There are plenty of different scenarios where you could encounter a “Firefighter Smith.”
- On a ride-along.
- In the field while you’re working.
- During your probationary year.
- Your entire career as a Firefighter.
These types of people are miserable to be around. I have experienced many in my career in EMS and now Fire. I had a lot of situations like the one above, but I dealt with it in the best way possible. I told my ego to shut up and did what I needed to do, which was my job. And my job as an EMT on a rescue did not consist of arguing with Firefighters. Yes, I stood up for myself when I needed to while I was learning the field. Unfortunately, standing up for yourself to these people falls on deaf ears. They’re excuses to them. That is why it is best to bite your lip and apologize or smile and walk away. Are you going to let this person come between you and the best career on earth? The answer should be no. You set out to do this job to the best of your abilities and you’ll be damned it Firefighter Smith is going to stop you from doing that.
Do not get discouraged by these people. Breath. Let it go and do your job.