My mom sent me a link to a news report by my local Fox 13 in Tampa Bay about a complaint filed by someone on social media concerning a post by a Sunstar EMT. Apparently a Bingo card made up to represent different EMS situations was posted to the EMT’s social media page and then somebody saw it and got offended.
The card in question was seen taped to the doghouse in the cab, in a location where if a patient’s family member was riding in the ambulance they would chance upon seeing it. Fox 13 interviewed a former EMT Garrett Goodwin regarding the matter. They don’t offer any other credentials for Goodwin other than him being a former EMT, but he seemed to have some rather poignant thoughts on the image.
“Imagine your loved one being hurt, watching your loved one have a heart attack. Imagine your drowned child trying to be revived. You get in with this ambulance, and you see this with boxes checked off.”
If I’m going to be honest, he’s right about this. I like to remind myself that if I said something, and it felt good to say it, it was probably the wrong thing to say. The same thing goes for social media and it seems like every other day there is some report about an EMS worker getting in hot water over something they put up on social media.
I remember first starting out in Fire and EMS and I am so glad that when I did the pinnacle of social media was Livejournal. There isn’t much to account for a 19 year old kid fresh out of high school who thinks he knows everything and has no filter. I feel bad for a generation of new providers who are growing up with that knee-jerk reaction to post something about Fire or EMS that they think is funny, even if it’s utterly benign, only to have the ugly head of social media turn and smite them mercilessly.
We have to be so so so careful about what we put up on display because it absolutely has a consequence in the court of public opinion. Everything you say and do on a public forum reflects on all of us. Regardless of if it’s a stupid picture you put up on your Facebook or Instagram that someone sees, or the sticker on the back of your car as you’re cutting someone off in traffic or, for the love of God… wearing your department t-shirt to a strip club… literally everything gets seen, posted, and potentially reported on. Trust me on this because in 15 years I’ve seen, and yes even done, some stupid shit. The fact is that you just have to be associated with something for your human resources to see you in a bad light. If it ended with just you that’s one thing, but it rarely ever does.
Most social media outlets have some easy safeguards to protect you from this sort of thing. First of all don’t have a public profile, set your stuff to friends only. You can even block that company tattle-tale from seeing it if you’ve friended them out of sympathy. The best safeguard is being able to recognize what is appropriate and what isn’t. Ask yourself if it’s worth being brought into the office. Most of the time it isn’t and your boss isn’t going to think it’s funny because somebody is going to call Fox 13 and make a complaint about it and that looks bad on the company.
Even if they are the sort of grunt supervisor and would think it’s funny too, remember that they have to eat and the brass at the top of the food chain are going to come down on them if they don’t discipline you. I can recall one of the coolest supervisors shouting across the parking lot at my Snuffy model to take her hat off after a blizzard because it was a “company image” issue. She wasn’t even on the clock!
Be smart. Even the best unions in the world can’t back you up if you post something really dumb. There’s lots of private companies that don’t have unions too and you should remember Frank Macomber’s sage words of wisdom from Twenty-Five at the Lip, “Behind every ambulance company there’s a clothesline they hang employees from.”
I don’t know this guy Goodwin. For that matter I don’t know why with the plethora of EMS and Fire providers in the Tampa Bay area they were only able to speak with a former EMT. I think I’d like to know what qualifies him to speak for any of us and our public image as a former EMT. The video states that he has twenty years in EMS, but not who he worked for or where. For that matter if he’s spent twenty years in EMS he should probably not be speaking out against anybody because he should know and understand that while this shouldn’t have been posted for the world to see, he could have offered more of an explanation than simply condemning it.
“This is the week we celebrate first responders. That’s why it stuck more to the heart,” Goodwin said.
“I think the fact that someone printed this up, brought it to the workplace, handed it to people and said, ‘let’s play dead people Bingo.’ That, in itself, is fundamentally wrong,” Goodwin added.
My guess is that Goodwin, much like the public in general, get their impressions of what EMS providers are like from Hollywood depictions. Stoic, straight-lined though sometimes edgy heroes who constantly deal with horrible situations, yet go home seemingly unaffected knowing in their hearts that they made a difference, have somewhat done us all a disservice in the public eye. The public absolutely deserves those sorts of people in an EMS system, but the fact remains that this job comes with a dramatic level of turn-over and burn out.
EMS providers have a need to decompress. We blow off steam in a way that only EMTs, firefighters, cops, corrections officers, and nurses know about (that’s not even getting into military service people). We have a very dark sense of humor and those who don’t adapt become former EMTs, firefighters, cops, corrections officers, and nurses. Another point I made in Twenty-Five at the Lip was how the public doesn’t get what it is to be an EMT. While that’s the case, we need to understand that it isn’t our job to expose them to what we say, think, and do to cope with the enormous stress of our profession.
Take it from a guy who has been around for a while. I’m not a dinosaur by any means, but I know my way around well enough to tell the younger ones coming in to watch what they say and do. We live in an era where there is a permanent record of everything we say and do. There are cameras everywhere and share buttons to link us to silly and stupid posts and remarks we make. Use caution around incredibly sensitive man-bun wearing vegan drum circle participating wet blankets.
Above all else though – Never forget where you came from and never talk out of shop.
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