The tones go off, there is a scramble for shirts, ties, and boots. Dispatch announces a motor vehicle accident five blocks away. EMTs and Paramedics climb into ambulances.Police are reporting multiple personal injuries. There is a rush of adrenaline through all those involved. The street comes alive with flashing red and white lights and screaming sirens.Ambulances tear down the street to the accident scene. They arrive to find four cars involved in a high-speed collision.There are seven people involved in this particular accident. Additional trucks are requested and the original scene repeats itself as three more teams join the first two at the scene. Emergency personnel work to disentangle patients from the wreckage of the vehicles.One patient is in full traumatic arrest. Three emergency medical workers operate together to intubate the patient and start IVs while they perform CPR and set up the defibrillator, while simultaneously searching for the patients identification. The team lifts the patient into the back of the ambulance, and while still compressing the patient’s chest, breathing for the patient, administering medications, and defibrillating all in an effort to help this patient avoid death, they speed off to the hospital.The EMTs and paramedics in the back of the ambulance continue their efforts enroute to the hospital while the ambulance ricochets off bumps and the workers are bounced all around the back of the vehicle. They finally arrive at the facility where one of the members of the team tells the triage nurse what is happening. They take the patient into a trauma room and lift the patient from their stretcher to the hospital bed. Finally they are allowed to clean up the back of the truck and head back to the base.The members of the team continue to talk about the run they just had while they clean the truck and drive back. They speculate about the condition of their patient, the other patients at the scene, and their co-workers. Things are beginning to return to the calmness that exists between calls.Having been exposed to a typical accident scene that most emergency medical personnel are used to working can be somewhat shocking.There are many questions, which arise after working a call like that just described. The one I would like to focus on is what were the names of the EMTs and Paramedics involved in the accident scene depicted? Jeff, Will, and John? Or could they possibly have been Charlene, Lee, and Tracy? Even in today’s world of political correctness, there is still a very large gender bias when it comes to certain things, such as Emergency Medical Services (EMS).The number of men in the field is much higher than the number of women. Women, for the most part, are looked at as not being as capable of performing what is required of an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) or a Paramedic as men are. EMTs and Paramedics are required to make split second, possibly life saving decisions, lift large amounts of weight, and work long hours in all conditions.Since most women are physically smaller than most men are, they are viewed as not being strong enough to lift patients or equipment in many situations. A personal example that proves this point happened to me one night while working my usual ambulance shift. My partner and I were called to help the paramedics treat a patient who had fallen down the stairs. Since the man had hit his head in his fall, we immobilized his head, neck, and back by strapping him to a board which was the same length as his body. The patient in this case was a fairly large man weighing probably around 350 pounds. I am female. My partner was a man, as were both paramedics. When the time came to lift the patient on the board from the ground to the stretcher, then into the truck, I, being a team player, grabbed a corner of the board to help the other three lift the patient. One of the paramedics turned toward me and said, “don’t worry, we have it, why don’t you go stand over by the truck and look cute.” Another example that demonstrates this point occurred when my partner and I were transporting a patient from his nursing home to his daughter’s personal home. Our patient was an overweight man who could not stand or walk at all. My partner and I moved him from his bed to our stretcher. Once we were at our truck downstairs preparing to lift him into our truck, he said, “are you sure you are strong enough to do this?” immediately followed by, “You are pretty, I bet you have sex a lot.” The ride was uneventful save the repeated offers of a shot of Sambuca once we reached our destination.When we reached the man’s house we took him out of the truck on the stretcher and prepared to transfer him to an apparatus called a stair chair. A stair chair is a device that looks like a chair with wheels used to carry patients up and down flights of stairs. We transferred him despite many interruptions from our patient who thought himself fit to tell me, not my partner, how to do my job. Of course this particular patient lived on the third floor of a house with narrow winding staircases. My partner and I prepared to lift our patient in order to carry him to the third floor. Before we could, he told us to call for assistance because he didn’t think a female could lift him. He did everything he could to bash females and try to convince me that there was no way I could lift and carry him up the stairs. As it turned out, we ended up carrying our ornery patient very slowly, with frequent rest stops, all the way up the stairs, and denied the shot of Sambuca once we got to the top.My partner and I proved him wrong, and that felt great. Our backs on the other hand… Another area where women are treated differently from men in EMS is when transporting a female psychiatric patient. Inevitably, every single time there is a female psychiatric patient that needs to be transported from her house to a facility, or from one facility to another, a female is sent to do the call. This is a practice that is vastly unfair for a variety of reasons. The first is that if a female is sent to do a psychiatric call, she is not available to do an emergency call, should one come in. The second is that a large percent of the time, when a facility calls to request a team to do a female psychiatric transfer, they do not mandate that one of the team members be a female. It is an incorrect assumption that is made by whomever is dispatching the call. In my personal experience, both male and female dispatchers have done this. The counter argument made by men is that if there is an all-male crew doing a female psychiatric transport, she can claim that they made sexual advances toward her. That initially sounds like a valid claim, but who is to say that in these transports the female crewmember is the one who sits in the back of the truck with the patient. I know that when I get these calls I would rather drive. There is no rule that defines the roles of the male and the female in doing these transports, so some of the time a male crewmember is the one accompanying the patient, while other times it is the female crewmember.
The implication of the previous paragraph is that there is a male crewmember and a female crewmember. That is not always true. Sometimes there are two male crewmembers, but there are never two female crewmembers. Some companies may have a policy allowing two females to ride together, but most do not, including the company I work for. The administration that makes the rules has established that it is not safe for two females to work together for a variety of reasons. One is that they feel that two females working together cannot defend themselves if a combative male patient were to attack them. Whether or not that is true, it is also true for male EMTs and Paramedics. If a male patient were to attack, he would cause as much damage to an all-male team as to an all-female team, or a team consisting of one male and one female. The same is true for a combative female. Sometimes, combative females are more violent than are combative males. In my experience, I have seen both, and for every male that requires six firefighters to restrain him, there is a female that requires six firefighters to restrain her.
Another aspect of difference is treatment by hospital staff. Teams that consist of two males regularly receive more attention from female nurses than teams of two females or mixed teams.Not only is this practice disrespectful to the majority of emergency workers, it also hinders a patient’s treatment in that if the nurse does not pay full attention to what they are being told by emergency personnel, they may not take proper care in treating the patient. On the flipside of this argument lie issues of common courtesy. When the men in EMS are not exhibiting their superior lifting capabilities, avoiding psychiatric calls, or flirting with nurses, they are actually very civilized. There are numerous examples of this type of issue. One instance occurred while I was talking to my supervisor before a shift. My partner and another crewmember entered the supervisor’s office. The other crewmember said hello to me by saying, “F_ _ _ You!” As soon as he had, the males in the office immediately told him to watch his mouth because, “there was a female present.” Another good example was an exchange my partner and I had one night over seatbelts. I always wear my seatbelt in the ambulance, and I asked him why he was not wearing his. He replied that if anything were to happen, his job as the male crewmember would be to throw himself between my body and the windshield to prevent injury to me. Just in case you are not familiar with the rules of ambulance driving, that is absolutely not true!Men have always seen themselves as being in a protective role towards women.That is apparent in the home as well as in the workplace. In today’s society women hold top positions within large corporations. The boundaries between women and men are much less restricting than they were years ago. Women have had to work very hard to gain the respect of their male counterparts. It is an ongoing struggle in the corporate world, in academia, and in the professional world. The glass ceiling of the past has been raised, but it will still be some time before it is completely broken.