Have you guys heard the one about the fire fighter, the police officer or the paramedic? Of course you have! We all have, and most of the time, it’s all in good fun. As services that work together we poke fun at each other, but when these jokes and shots turn into resentment, arguments, even anger and hatred, they’ve gone too far. There is frustration and unwillingness to help each other, competition and even fighting between services. And who suffers the most from these disputes? The people we are there to help, patients and others in need.
Now I know it is a bit extreme to blame any inter-service rivalry on jokes alone, when there are a wide variety of factors at play. That said, these jokes often highlight underlying legitimate feelings, even if they’re meant in good fun. Unfortunately this progression from professional banter to inter-service animosity can be seen quite clearly in events this fall in the city of Toronto. With budget cuts looming over emergency services, police, fire and paramedics a like are scrambling to justify their operating costs. This scramble seems to have brought out the worst in all of them, with each service trying to promote themselves at the expensive of the others. We’ve turned on one another; we’ve placed ourselves above our comrades in arms, even going as far as to deny they are our comrades at all. This isn’t the path of progression and this isn’t the path of accountability to the communities that we serve. We owe it not only to ourselves, but those communities, to provide a united front in the face of any adversity. Regardless of whether it’s providing the best medical care for a patient, or facing budget cuts and restructuring during difficult times, it is together, as a united front, that we should face these challenges.
Admittedly, even now, working as a paramedic, I struggle to always remain professional with other pre-hospital services, but it’s the little changes that we each make that cause the big changes to occur. We need to support each other, we need to work together, and we need to ensure that we face any adversity as a united front. If we don’t appreciate that the different responsibilities and skillsets we have all compliment and support each other, then we limit ourselves and deprive our communities of the best patient possible care. I want to finish with a quote from the great scholars Wilbert Harrison, Canned Heat, and George Thorogood & The Destroyers: “together we stand, divided we fall, come on now people let’s get on the ball and work together”. So what does it come down to? You are the cause of the change you want to see, so let’s all work together.
Dan Stein is a Primary Care Paramedic working in Simcoe County. He has been an Emergency Medical Responder for 6 years, and was a member of the Wilfrid Laurier University Emergency Response Team during undergrad. Dan is the current President of the Association of Campus Emergency Response Teams, a national organization that oversees first-aid teams on Canadian campuses.