Making a Stand

Here’s a special treat for you all. Liz has made me, Richard, write my debut post. Something came up yesterday that she thought might help others having a similar problem. Do you have an issue with management making decisions that make you do something you are very uncomfortable with?

As you may know one of the things I enjoy is being a Paramedic and you don’t really do the job to earn large amounts of money as the pay is frankly pathetic in Missouri. I started EMS back in Montana where most of the ambulance crews are volunteers. I wanted to give something to the community. Since moving to Missouri I eventually started working PRN (i.e. on an as needed basis) for two different ambulance services. Missouri rules are different and volunteering is not a usual practice here.

One of the services I have been working for takes lots of transfers from the local hospital that can’t seem to keep specialist doctors around, to Springfield where there are excellent hospitals. I don’t mind transferring people, but most of the time it’s simply taxi service to meet the requirements of an overly bureaucratic health system. It’s like having a highly trained Navy Seal give boat rides to tourists (not that I’m even slightly fit enough to be a Navy Seal!) A lot of the people I have taken on transfers could just have easily been taken by a relative. Some even drove themselves to the hospital and couldn’t understand why the doctor told them they had to go somewhere else by ambulance!

Anyway, during the recent snow storm yesterday, a doctor in the local hospital decided that one of his patients had to be transferred to St Louis on that day (doctors in local hospitals often transfer patients on Fridays. I guess they want their weekends off). The patient’s condition was stable and the procedure they needed was not urgent. They could have waited until anytime over the weekend. The call came in to the ambulance service and because it was not a life threat upper management were consulted to see if the transfer should be postponed. Upper management took a look at all the factors and decided the transfer should go ahead … in the snow!

The decision was one that I was not comfortable with. I have no desire to take a patient in an unstable ‘box’ without four wheel drive 200 miles north in the snow. I had already driven 60 miles to work that morning in the same treacherous conditions, using four wheel drive, over the same roads, and it had taken over 2 hours. I have no doubt management thought it was for the best, I disagreed. I have disagreed with the manager many times and always respectfully to his face. He has always thought things through and does what he thinks is best. There is always very little room to change his mind even when he is patently wrong in many people’s eyes. Once his mind is made up, it’s like moving a mountain.

I told the manager that I was not going to take the transfer because I was concerned about the risk in doing so, especially for a non-urgent reason. I offered my resignation simply because I knew he would have no other alternative apart from firing me. Rethinking his original decision was never going to happen.

So there it is. I resigned. I took the view that my safety was more important than management’s decision. Of course someone else took the call, but that’s their life not mine and I sincerely hope everything went well. Having been a manager in a large corporation and an owner of a small business with employees, I know what having to make decisions people don’t agree with is like. I also know that being employed is a give and take situation. We are doing each other a service.

I’m not going to compromise my safety for no good reason. Others may be in a similar situation where their employer is doing something they don’t agree with, but when their employer does something to compromise safety, ethics or bounds of reasonableness then it is time to take action. You are more important than the company, as are your family. If your job is taking you away too much then find another job. I know it’s easy to say and hard to do, but I also know it can be done. Never be afraid to make a stand for what is right and if you believe it wholeheartedly then be prepared to sacrifice your job to do it. Nothing may seem to come of it to start with, but you never know who is watching or what future decisions of that same management you may affect. Besides that, you’ll know you’ve done the right thing and will feel great about it in the end.


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