Sleep deprived. What to do?

FireMedic82

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Hello! New to the forum. I was doing a search on this subject and came across this forum and figured I could maybe get some experienced opinions here. Anyways, here's my issue and questions.
I work at a EMS/Fire station doing 24/48 shift work and my average sleep at night is usually 3-4 hours total and non continuous. I may get 1 hour here and 3 hours there, but that is usually about it. Also, I'm not sure if your departments have paging systems or not, but ours do not. It is mandatory that we monitor ALL ems/fire traffic (including local volunteers) over the 24 hour period.

The lack of sleep that I have been getting I feel is becoming a problem so much that I need to make a change, however that may be, whether it is at home sleeping habits, nutrition, or career.

My quality of life has been pretty poor over the past few years due to exhaustion and I'm not sure exactly what to do. I enjoy my job for the most part and the flexabilty that comes with it, but I feel like I can never catch up on sleep. It feels life a vicious never ending cycle and I would like to improve my quality of life. I am 31 years old and I function and ache like a 60 year old (no offense to the 60 year olds just throwing a number out there)..this can't be good.

Any of you experiencing the same problem? Any suggestions on taming this beast?
 
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MagicTyler

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That seems pretty crazy that you get such little sleep evry single shift. Do your co-workers sleep this little too? Or is it just you because you're monitoring the radio? I'd suggest may be trying to sleep durring the day whenever you can.
 

chaz90

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Time to try to bring up some concerns to management. Bring up the danger and liability of having sleep deprived personnel 24 hrs into a shift without any pagers. It's unreasonable to expect personnel to monitor the radio alone for calls during a 24 hr shift. 12 hrs is manageable, but more than that gets ridiculous. More staffing would obviously be the optimal solution to make call volume at night more realistic, but at least getting some kind of pager system should be a priority.
 

STXmedic

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Sounds like my station. 0-5hrs sleep per night on 24/48s. We've got selective call though, so we don't have to hear everyone else's crap.

On really rough shifts, I'll sleep 5-6hrs when I get home. It typically doesn't affect me too much, though. Some guys on our crew (or on our busier ems units) will take a nap (or several) throughout the day. They say they're always good to go the next day, maybe with just a short nap after they get off.

If I start feeling deprived and beat down, I'll usually have a guy pick up my shift to have a week off and recoup. Our guys are really good about working for each other.
 

FireMedic82

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We have a total of 4 stations total that cover an area of about 1000 square miles, serving a population of close to 50,000 people. Out of these 4 stations 2/4 are 2 man stations, 1/4 is a three man station, and the main/central station is the one I work at and we have 5 people there (2 ems units and 1 engine). The portion of the county that I cover also has 3 nursing homes that keep us busy. It isn't just me monitoring the radio traffic, all rooms have a loud speaker that shares the love:)

About the sleeping during the day...sometimes it is possible to grab an hour or so, but more often than not, the station I am at is either hopping calls or keeping busy with department inventory stocking or working on To-Dos handed down from supervisors.

The problem with the lack of paging system has been addressed and is much like beating a dead horse. Department head says we need to be able to respond quickly if a more rural truck needs help:glare: edit: and I know what you are thinking...If a truck needs help, call for help and use the paging system. Ya, trust me I think the same. That would make to much sense.
 
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MagicTyler

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Do you have some sort of dispatcher? Or is your agency traying to save money by having you self dispatch? If you have a dispatcher, there are many free options to page the crew... Heck, you could even just call the crew quarters on the phone. Saving a few bucks on a dispatcher could cost a very expensive lawsuit.

The man driving the truckload of twinkies has laws to get minimum sleep, yet Medics are forced to repond to calls on 3 hours of sleep... Sigh...
 
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46Young

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Time to try to bring up some concerns to management. Bring up the danger and liability of having sleep deprived personnel 24 hrs into a shift without any pagers. It's unreasonable to expect personnel to monitor the radio alone for calls during a 24 hr shift. 12 hrs is manageable, but more than that gets ridiculous. More staffing would obviously be the optimal solution to make call volume at night more realistic, but at least getting some kind of pager system should be a priority.
When I worked for Charleston County EMS, the dispatcher would call us by phone after 2200 hours. That seems like an inexpensive solution if the department is too cheap to install a system in the station.

Perhaps the local media would be interested in this issue, from an anonymous source?
 

FireMedic82

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Do you have some sort of dispatcher? Or is your agency traying to save money by having you self dispatch? If you have a dispatcher, there are many free options to page the crew... Heck, you could even just call the crew quarters on the phone. Saving a few bucks on a dispatcher could cost a very expensive lawsuit.

The man driving the truckload of twinkies has laws to get minimum sleep, yet Medics are forced to repond to calls on 3 hours of sleep... Sigh...
Yes, we do have a dispatcher that could be contacted by radio or phone which could then page out as needed. This goes in one ear and out the other. It is a very simple concept, but the concerns of lack of sleep in our department are non existent.

I have been with this department for about 6 years and I know this subject is a dead end. Edit: I know what to expect from administration concerning this issue, so I guess I'm looking for a more indirect issue to help myself and not spend more energy on beating that horse I guess.
 
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FireMedic82

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Another note on the sleeping during the day (just to give you an idea of what I'm dealing with). Keep in mind this concept never sticks completely, but at one point, we were allowed to use our "lunch period" for one hour of sleep. Other than that there would be no sleeping before 17:00 hours.
 

J B

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The lack of sleep that I have been getting I feel is becoming a problem so much that I need to make a change, however that may be, whether it is at home sleeping habits, nutrition, or career.

My quality of life has been pretty poor over the past few years due to exhaustion and I'm not sure exactly what to do.
I have been with this department for about 6 years and I know this subject is a dead end. Edit: I know what to expect from administration concerning this issue, so I guess I'm looking for a more indirect issue to help myself and not spend more energy on beating that horse I guess.
Another note on the sleeping during the day (just to give you an idea of what I'm dealing with). Keep in mind this concept never sticks completely, but at one point, we were allowed to use our "lunch period" for one hour of sleep. Other than that there would be no sleeping before 17:00 hours.
Maybe it's time to polish up the ol' resumé?
 

46Young

Level 25 EMS Wizard
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Hello! New to the forum. I was doing a search on this subject and came across this forum and figured I could maybe get some experienced opinions here. Anyways, here's my issue and questions.
I work at a EMS/Fire station doing 24/48 shift work and my average sleep at night is usually 3-4 hours total and non continuous. I may get 1 hour here and 3 hours there, but that is usually about it. Also, I'm not sure if your departments have paging systems or not, but ours do not. It is mandatory that we monitor ALL ems/fire traffic (including local volunteers) over the 24 hour period.

The lack of sleep that I have been getting I feel is becoming a problem so much that I need to make a change, however that may be, whether it is at home sleeping habits, nutrition, or career.

My quality of life has been pretty poor over the past few years due to exhaustion and I'm not sure exactly what to do. I enjoy my job for the most part and the flexabilty that comes with it, but I feel like I can never catch up on sleep. It feels life a vicious never ending cycle and I would like to improve my quality of life. I am 31 years old and I function and ache like a 60 year old (no offense to the 60 year olds just throwing a number out there)..this can't be good.

Any of you experiencing the same problem? Any suggestions on taming this beast?
I feel your pain. I used to work a straight 24/48 with no Kellys at Charleston County EMS. There were frequent holdovers of 12-24 hours following the shift. We were moved to post once or twice a night, usually on a street corner. I lasted less than six months before getting an opportunity at a fire department as a ff/medic.

We work a variation of a 24/48. It's 24on/24off/24on/24off/24on/96 off. Holdovers are 12 hours max, and are infrequent. I still suffer from chronic sleep deprivation, but between the department and my part time IFT job, I'm putting in over 80 hours a week, on average.

I try to take a 1-2 hour nap in the early afternoon if feasible. I try to be in bed at or around 2100 hours before shift, since I get up at around 0420. I try and catch a one hour nap at work in the early or mid afternoon if there aren't any drills or calls. If I get slammed at work all night, sleeping all da doesn't work; it just throws you off and makes you feel weird (in a brain fog and lethargic) for the rest of the day. Try and turn in early at work if you can, even as early as 0830 or so if you can.

We get 11.2 hours in either pay or comp if we're off when a holiday occurs, and 16 hours for a holiday worked. I choose comp time for mine. Once I max out my comp hours at 300-something (I forget), I'll start using any extra accrued comp time for sick leave (mental health days). I try not to use sick leave, since it accrues the slowest. Maxed out annual leave spills over to sick leave, so I use comp for sick leave, and annual leave for vacation.

Do you have a Union? Have them take care of the issue of having no paging system. An inexpensive solution is to have the dispatcher call you on the station phone, instead of keeping the radio on. Alternatively, turn the radio off, and take turns with your partner each day/night(nap during the day if you can) monitoring the portable radio as an alternative.

Would the department consider going to a 48/96 schedule? It's apparently popular out west.

Can you transfer to a slower station?

Would you consider going to the media anonymously to tell them of the department's practice of running 24 hour shifts, but mandating that the radios stay on? The reporter could make a decent story out of it, reporting sleep deprivation as a significant risk factor for vehicle crashes, medication errors, and patient care errors.

Can you change departments? You're a firefighter/paramedic. It's not too difficult to get hired at a large, quality department that doesn't have ridiculous policies such as keeping radios on for 24 hours. Northern Virginia and Southern Maryland have many well paying departments. What state do you work in?
 

WuLabsWuTecH

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So this issue with radio traffic at night has come up at a couples of stations I've worked at in the past and here were some of our solutions.

1) Station was dispatched over a common dispatch channel and we had to listen to the radio since there are no tones in an 800 system. The dispatcher now calls us over the phone if we haven't marked on the radio within 60 seconds as a backup to the radio so if no one wants to listen to the radio, it's ok.

Also, before they agreed to do this, they moved all operations to a second channel. This reduced the amount of traffic, but did not eliminate it.

2)Same situation at this particular firehouse where they had to monitor the dispatch talkgroup all night. At first, they just decided to hand the walkie around and since they have so many guys at their station (engine, ladder, rescue, medic), no one would have to "hold the walkie" for more than one night a month. If you were driving, you automatically got out of "walkie duty." Then, someone with technical expertise got smart and was able to tie the walkie to a contraption that detected when alert tones were sounded. This still didn't help as much as having selective tones would have, but as long as the dispatch wasn't for their station, he could "hit the snooze button" and not have to hear all the tactical traffic.

It sounds like for you, you may want to consider turning off the PA system in your station after say 2200 hours, and give a walkie to a person to monitor.

Also, how many other people have the same complaint that you do? If it's a significant number, then you have a bit more sway. But remember, as my fire chief says, if you come to me with a problem, you best also come to me with a suggestion to solve the problem. I can't imagine he wouldn't be receptive to having a designated person monitor the radio since it won't cost him any more money.

Also, if not monitoring the dispatch for mutual aid requests would result in that much of a delay, you guys need to look at how your dispatching works. For us, when another department (or another one of our trucks) calls for help, the dispatch is immediate. So immediate, that the dispatcher doesn't even acknowledge receiving the request for help but just goes straight to the dispatch message and station tones. If not monitoring causes a significant delay in responding, like greater than a few minutes, I have to wonder what the dispatchers are doing during that few minutes...
 

FireMedic82

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JB I have recently polished up on it as a just in case. I have only worked for one other service in the past so I was unsure if this is a common problem that I would trade into or if could it be solved by going elsewhere.

Like I said I do enjoy my job but not so much that I would like to trade my health for.
 

46Young

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Maybe it's time to polish up the ol' resumé?
No kidding. Firefighter/paramedics are much more easily employable than basic FF/EMT's. It sounds like the OP works for one of those right-to-work "my way or the highway" non IAFF Southeastern departments.
 

46Young

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JB I have recently polished up on it as a just in case. I have only worked for one other service in the past so I was unsure if this is a common problem that I would trade into or if could it be solved by going elsewhere.

Like I said I do enjoy my job but not so much that I would like to trade my health for.
Are there any day work positions that you can qualify (or prepare for) for within your department? How about Fire Inspections, Fire Marshall, Safety Officer, EMS supervisor, EMS training division, or an instructor in the fire academy? It sounds like your department uses single pull, which means that the crew jumps on whatever piece gets the call. So, it sounds like you can't get off the medic unit by promoting to Hazmat Tech, TROT Tech, or Apparatus Tech (engine or truck driver). That's unfortunate. If none of these options are available to you, it sounds like you desperately need to get hired by a mid-size or large fire department. You're missing all of the benefits of being a medic in a fire department vs single role EMS.
 

FireMedic82

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I'm not sure how to multi quote so bear with me.
To try and sum up the questions of both, I will say that unfortunately there would be no way for me to get away with turning off the radio. That would be immediate write up I'm sure. The main radio at my station controls all speakers, so turning it off would mean shutting off the radio to my supervisors rooms as well.
We had one person working on of the more rural stations in the past using his personal pager at night. Once the department head found out, he was told to take the pager home, that it was not to be used.
Guys at more rural stations can fly under the radar much easier than us, but if they turned off the main radio, used a single portable by one person and dept. head found out, that would be a write up as well(if they found out I guess).

I could go to a so-what slower rural station, but that would require the current medic to either quit or want to come to the busier station and both are uncommon.

There is no such positions within our dept. that involve a Hazmat tech. We are the Hazmat tech;) as a matter of fact, we work all roles simultaneously. As far as a supervisor position...My shift lieutenant also works on the ambulance and gets slammed just the same. The shift captain rides the engine and only the captain is allowed to ride the engine. This dept. is one of those cases where you have to wait for someone to either retire or quit in order to advance. Other than lieutenant, captain, fire marshal and chief, there is no advancement. Moving to Paramedic was my advancement:wacko:

I work in Florida and confined to Florida as I have no National Registry.
 
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ExpatMedic0

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Sounds like its time to bring to managements attention. Staffing, policy's and scheduling needs to be reconfigured to fit your departments call volume, policy's, and man power.

This is a major health concern for you and your comrades, but also it could result in patient care issues, driving issues, and errors.

If that fails, I agree with "its time to polish up the ol resume"
 

FireMedic82

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Sounds like its time to bring to managements attention. Staffing, policy's and scheduling needs to be reconfigured to fit your departments call volume, policy's, and man power.

This is a major health concern for you and your comrades, but also it could result in patient care issues, driving issues, and errors.

If that fails, I agree with "its time to polish up the ol resume"
I completely agree with you. It is very concerning.

Again, and yet another thing to give you an idea of what I'm dealing with as far as management goes. I have been told of a ISO study done years ago that was swept under the rug and in clever ways kept from public view. However, we recently had another study done that, again suggested more man power and more stations. Hopefully this one won't be a repeat of the past.

Well, so far with the comments you guys have given me I'm taking it this is isn't a common issue within EMS/Fire services. This does give me a little hope, although I will have to pick up and move. I was really hoping for suggestions on how to manage/cope with staying tired all the time, but it's looking like what I've been thinking all along.

Keep the ideas and suggestions coming. They are GREATLY appreciated.
 

Medic Tim

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I have worked areas where we would get a text message alone with a verbal call out.
 

46Young

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I'm not sure how to multi quote so bear with me.
To try and sum up the questions of both, I will say that unfortunately there would be no way for me to get away with turning off the radio. That would be immediate write up I'm sure. The main radio at my station controls all speakers, so turning it off would mean shutting off the radio to my supervisors rooms as well.
We had one person working on of the more rural stations in the past using his personal pager at night. Once the department head found out, he was told to take the pager home, that it was not to be used.
Guys at more rural stations can fly under the radar much easier than us, but if they turned off the main radio, used a single portable by one person and dept. head found out, that would be a write up as well(if they found out I guess).

I could go to a so-what slower rural station, but that would require the current medic to either quit or want to come to the busier station and both are uncommon.

There is no such positions within our dept. that involve a Hazmat tech. We are the Hazmat tech;) as a matter of fact, we work all roles simultaneously. As far as a supervisor position...My shift lieutenant also works on the ambulance and gets slammed just the same. The shift captain rides the engine and only the captain is allowed to ride the engine. This dept. is one of those cases where you have to wait for someone to either retire or quit in order to advance. Other than lieutenant, captain, fire marshal and chief, there is no advancement. Moving to Paramedic was my advancement:wacko:

I work in Florida and confined to Florida as I have no National Registry.
The problem with Florida is that medics are abundant, so there are probably dozens that would love to have your position should you leave. As such, the senior staff is not inclined to change anything to benefit the employee. As much as the sleep deprivation gets to you, working a 9-5, having to be productive every minute of the day, no PT or study time at work, and dealing with traffic every day would be worse, IMO. You can also kiss the OT goodbye as well, unless you want to work per diem at an IFT company. It's tough to work part-time when you're already working M-F 9-5. You'll never be home, and your relationships will be stressed even more than with a 24/48. I know this first-hand when I used to work 4 days a week in NYC EMS, with OT once or twice a week. My wife and child hardly ever saw me, unless they liked watching me when I slept. No more pension, either. The golden rule: Its all about the best retirement!

I had to get my NR-P on my own when I working as a medic in NY, to be able to work out-of-state, just get your NR-P so that you have options. The Carolinas don't generally pay well. Hilton Head and Colleton County SC may be the exceptions. Everywhere else, you're starting in the low to mid $30k/yr on a 24/48.

If you really want to be a career FF/medic, I would focus on Northern Virginia (where I'm at), anything in MD bordering DC, and Texas. These departments are large enough to afford ample promotional opportunity, and versatility within the department as well. You could try a few departments in CA, but I don't know much about them. If you want to do well, either get hired by Miami-Dade, or get out of Florida.
 
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