In an EMS galaxy not so far away, there was once a stockroom that held a distinguished assembly of EMS knickknacksƒdisposable in nature but essential to the sustenance of the inner workings of an ambulance. From this storage space, the working habitants of ambulances would replenish resources depleted by those unfortunate enough to become brief tenants of their humble abode. Medics freely moved about this storage roomƒreloading any essential EMS bric-a-brac they deemed necessary. They were bound by no man as they went merrily about their way, row by row, liberated in the knowledge that the oncoming crew would want for nothing they needed to care for and treat patients. And so it went for many a happy yearƒan incontestable routine of stock replenishment that was not to be interrupted by either time or interchangeable employees.

Until one day a man of managerial status and waaay too much time on his hands (note the redundancy) came across what he considered to be an interesting observation. While inspecting the inner workings of his company_s fleet, he noticed Medic Unit 4 had one more nasal cannula than Medic Unit 6.„Obviously, there_s a hoarding-of-supplies issue here. I must remedy this situation immediately, he thought. And so on the following day a notice was placed on the entryway to the supply room for all to see: “All employees must restrict themselves to a limited number of no more than four nasal cannulas in the restocking of their ambulances.”

Concern quickly permeated the minds behind the eyes scanning the hasty proclamation.„Who among us isn_t sharing?„ The medics wondered.„And if the culprits are hoarding nasal cannulas, what_s next? Non-rebreather masks?

“Surely, we must ensure our own unit_s survivability,” partners began whispering secretly to each other. In no time at all, the cardboard boxes lining the shelves of the storeroom were rapidly depleted of not only nasal cannulas, but also bandages, angiocaths, alcohol preps and spinal straps.

Horrified, the _forementioned manager proclaimed, “Obviously, we cannot trust the employees to use good judgment in resupplying their own rigs! We must limit resource distribution, count every item and compare their use to the crew_s trip reports. We must lock the cabinets, place surveillance cameras, give me a raise andƒmost importantlyƒhire a supply overseer to guard and watch over our precious reserves.”

The financiers inquired, “How can we absorb the cost of such a paper trail and the expense of oversight and supervision?”

“Buy lower-quality supplies and, while keeping the rigs supplied at a bare minimum, eliminate employee cost-of-living raises and instill an attitude of mistrust between management and the street grunts,” the manager quipped proudly. “How else are we going to be progressive?”

A 2006 survey conducted by found 60% of employees, regardless of profession, had taken office supplies for personal use. Most-stolen items included pens/pencils, staplers, paper, highlighters, paper clips, envelopes, tissues, rubber bands and note pads. I_m sure some out there have also had desktop computers and office furniture accidently fall into the back of their pickup trucks from their office windows.

But, from a supply-room standpoint, is this really such a big problem for EMS management? I can_t recall ever needing to intubate, suction or defibrillate a family member. OK, I once infused my wife with 2L IV solution when she was dehydrated secondary to suffering from severe morning sickness. Of course, I had a rationale for this, figuring I shouldn_t have to call in sick so I could take her to the emergency department for a procedure I could do at home.

Other take-home items? Sure, I_ve snagged a few latex gloves from my wacker pants for paint jobs around the house, but that_s really about it. OK. OK! I„did use a few angiocaths to pick out some wood splinters that were embedded in my finger. And there was that time I. Ú You know what? I think I_ll just stop right here.

I_m not trying to justify a moral flexibility for misuse of office supplies. Indeed, literally bringing work home every day is wrong, but I do know you_ll never see an EMS managerial office or administrative center with someone behind a locked door or window requiring the clerical staffers to sign forms permitting them to gain access to staples, Scotch tape or Sharpies.

Sure, there are kleptomaniacs, and even survivalists, in our EMS community who will take whatever they can get their opportunistic hands on. But I_m willing to bet most who consciously steal items from EMS storerooms are either disgruntled employees trying to get back at management or aging baby boomers like me just hoarding a few chucks in preparation for a future life of incontinence.

Until next time, resist the urge to obsessively hoard nasal cannulas.„JEMS

Steve Berryhas been a paramedic for the past 25 years in the southern Colorado region. He_s the author of the cartoon book series I_m Not An Ambulance Driver and invites you to join him and others of the EMS community to ride in the 2009 National EMS Memorial Bike Ride ( Visit his Web site „to purchase his books or CDs.