UPDATE: Since this story was posted, CCEMS has its first true crossover employee. Dispatcher and Communications Training Officer Ash Thompson works a 24-hour shift in Comm Center, has three days off and then works 24 hours in the field as a paramedic. He received his EMT and Paramedic education at CCEMS while working in the Comm Center.
Cypress Creek EMS Medics are learning the ropes in the Comm Center…
And dispatchers who are also EMTs are learning to drive ambulances and work in the field. It’s all part of the voluntary Crossover program. One of the reasons for it is to give each an understanding of what the other goes through on a daily basis in the field and in the Comm Center.
The other value of the Crossover Program is that they can actually work each others jobs. Let’s look at a scenario where that could really come in handy. Take flu season, for example. Each year’s flu shot is guesswork, so medics could actually catch a different strain of the flu from patients and that could take several of them out of service at the same time. On the other hand, the flu could shoot through the Comm Center making a number of dispatchers ill.
Temporary shortages like that can now be covered by cross-trained employees. Recently, Paramedic Angela Hair worked with dispatcher Christine Mangum in the Cypress Creek Communications Center. One of the calls really got to Angela. The mother of an infant called 9-1-1. Her baby’s heart had stopped and dispatch talked her through CPR while an ambulance was on the way.
Angela’s eyes teared up as she talked about the call. She explained it this way. “It’s just hearing the desperation in their voice. They don’t have anyone there and they don’t know what to do. In the field when we get there they know help is here, someone is there actively taking care of the problem, so in the field, I’ve only seen it when the outcome is not good. I don’t do this in the field. It’s so weird hearing her. She’s by herself trying to do it (CPR). We don’t see that desperation, or maybe we’re so involved in our jobs and what we are doing we don’t have time to see that until after everything settles. Here, it’s different because you can hear it and there’s not anyone there to help them yet. Although you are helping them over the phone, they are still alone. “
Christine agrees saying, “They are a little bit more relieved when someone is actually on scene, whereas we hear it. We don’t see it and we do what we can from a distance with our voice. You get kind of a thick skin in here. You still have to have the compassion but you can’t let it affect you. It’s their emergency and not ours. I’m doing what I can to help them through my training and hopefully passing it on to others doing what they can do.”
Christine recently spent time in the field learning to drive an ambulance and going out on calls. She says it’s an eye-opening experience. “It’s just seeing how they work out there,” she says. “The crews work together like we work together in here. They’re a team. We’re a team. Seeing their interaction with the patients and the families and how they move through that is kind of like we move through it here but at a distance.” She says it helps her because “I understand how they work and I can understand what they are going through on the field side. I think it makes me better in here to see that side of it…. more understanding, so there’s not a Comm Center/field medic separation. I understand what they are having to go through with the traffic and the families. What they are seeing is what I’m hearing so its makes it a little bit better.”
Angela agrees on the value of the crossover program. “I can understand what they go through and what they have to do in order to get the call into the computer and dispatch. There’s a lot that goes on between receiving the call and getting the call dispatched and I never really realized that. It’s kind of chaotic at times.”
The Crossover Program is a joint project between the Comm Center and the Clinical Department.
Communications Center Manager Niky Smith says,” It makes for a more well-rounded employee, which in turn assists in overall camaraderie and morale because it allows the dispatcher to have some field time and vice versa.”