And I Was Never Late For Emergency Overtime Again

Kelly Grayson’s recent post, Philosophical EMS Observation #3477,  and the comments, reminded me of a situation I encountered.  There he wrote:

On leadership versus managing:

A leader treats the policy and procedure manual as a guide, and uses his best judgment in deciding whether strict adherence to policy is in the best interests of the agency, the crews, and the patients.

A manager treats the policy and procedure manual as the Bible, and uses it to bludgeon into submission any underling who dares to question the dogma.

There are far more managers than leaders in EMS.

Discuss amongst yourselves…

A few years ago, I was at the gym on a day off when I received a page for emergency overtime.  Someone was needed in 90 minutes at a different post from the one I usually reported to.  Now I never worked overtime very often, but we were saving money for something and had no plans, so I said I would take it.  It took 15 minutes to drive home, another 30 to shower and get dressed, and fifteen minutes to drive to my regularly assigned post to get my gear.  This left  30 minutes for what should have been, at most, a 20 minute drive to the post where the overtime was.  Then I hit the interstate, where a large plane was being ferried to a museum, and traffic was nearly stopped.

I arrived two minutes late, and logged onto the CAD 8 minutes after I arrived.  I apologized to the person I relieved, who had an urgent doctor’s appointment.  She still had plenty of time to make the appointment and was not upset.  She left, and we were sent on a call a short time later.  I didn’t think anything of it until that shift’s supervisor called to inquire about my late CAD entry.  I half-joked about being two minutes late because of a plane on the interstate.  I certainly did not expect to be in trouble for it.  Not known for his sense of humor, however, the supervisor told me to write an incident report.

So I did.  With a hint of sarcasm, I included where I was when I received the page, the time when I was at each stop before getting stuck in traffic, and the time I pulled into the parking lot.  I even included that I was monitoring the radio, and could have met the off-going medic on a scene or at the hospital with a spare truck so that they could be relieved.  I didn’t hear anything and forgot about it.

A few weeks later I got a call from my regular supervisor who told me to come to base for discipline.  On the way there I racked by brain about what I did that was discipline-worthy.  I could not think of anything.  So we sat down in the interrogation conference room and read that I was on charges for tardiness that day.  Seriously?  I blew up.

While at that service, I showed up at least 20 minutes early for almost all of my shifts.  On the rare occasions when I was running late, I still made it in on time.  There was one day, across several years, that I thought I was on vacation and ended up being 30 minutes late.  Someone held over for me and it was never documented, which is something I routinely did for other people.  Now I was being charged with being 2 minute late for an overtime shift, which I rarely worked anyway.

My supervisor agreed that charges filed by the other shift’s supervisor was excessive, and helped me plea it down to documented counseling session about the importance of being on time.  On my performance evaluation that year, this was now an area that “needed improvement.”  I told him that I learned my lesson, and promised that I would never, ever be late for emergency overtime again.  In fact, I never worked another overtime shift at that service, no matter how desperately they sometimes begged for people to come in.

The comments after Kelly’s post explain the conundrum middle managers are in, and why these incidents that tear organizations apart happen, and are well worth reading.  The big picture of “climate of trust” and “just culture” get lost in these “gotcha” environments, to the eventual detriment of patient care.
I wish I had answers to this, rather than just providing examples of problems.


  1. Jack Sullivan says:

    That was the correct way to handle this situation. I survived 36 years of federal service as an non-criminal labor investigator. My go-to mantra was ” I’m sorry, your’re right, I will try not to let that happen again.” I found this statement left the supervisor/manager speechless, because I had preempted any criticism to be directed my way. BTW, don’t state that you will not let that happen again because that boxes you in. Use “try” instead. Double BTW, don’t try this with your spouse/partner. They will immediately see through your ploy, as they are smarter than any supervisor.

  2. Robert Martin says:

    Way to totally blow morale and shaft a dedicated employee.

  3. I had a similar situation occur at The Borg, shortly after starting here. A medic called in sick, and they called me at home with four hours notice, and asked me to cover the sick medic’s shift while they let the day medic on my truck work a 24.

    I agreed, with the proviso that I would get there as soon as I can, but might be as much as 15 minutes late for the shift start.

    I stepped out of my truck at exactly two minutes past the scheduled start of the shift, and got written up for tardiness by my supervisor.

    Six months later, the scheduling supervisor asked me why I refused to cover any extra shifts, and I told him why. He agreed that it was a chickenshit thing for the supervisor to have done, and that it would never happen again.

    Five years later, he’s kept his word, and I’ll occasionally work unscheduled overtime when they ask.

Speak Your Mind