Your cranium feels substantially heavy and your droopy eyelids can_t stay open. Your once-inline C-spine begins to flex forward. Your catatonic stare becomes blurred as the neurons in your brain begin to numb and fire without direction or purpose. Glancing back over your shoulder, you see the ambulance cot just five short feet away beckoning you to sneak in a quick snooze.”ž
Shifting your visual range laterally, you see your partner taking his 10th yawn in the past two minutes. He must be in the same state of mental power failure as you. Surely at any moment, he will make a beeline for the cot himself, but are you worried? Heck no! You_ve already recognized that you have a slight advantage over him. Unlike your partner, who has just consumed five Hostess Ding Dongs between yawns, you have a reserve blood supply outside your GI tract ready to be activated once you tell your sympathetic glands to do so.
While smiling, you make a mad dash for the rear box of the rig, hearing your partner say, Ë™Son of a … !Ã“ just as you shut the side door. You laugh as you close your eyes, knowing your partner has to keep guard duty, which involves having at least one eye open for any intoxicated nomads heading your way (so that you guys can drive the opposite direction) and one ear open for dispatch.”ž
Just as your consciousness begins to fade, you hear the dispatcher_s voice crackle over the radio, Ë™Medic Four, I need you to relocate to the east side of the city.Ã“ Now it_s your turn to say, Ë™Son of a”ž”ž … !Ã“
I_m sure some of you out there are thinking, Napping on duty? Not me! I_m a professional. Uh-huh … sure. Either you_re lying, you_ve never worked overtime or a rotating shift schedule, or you_ve never experienced system status management (which, by the way, was invented by a gentleman by the name of Satan).
There_s a lot of research supporting the concept of napping at work. A NASA study reported that 26 minutes of uninterrupted slumber can boost worker performance by 34%. It_s therefore logical that 260 minutes of napping should increase productivity by 340%.
Now, I know one shouldn_t nap in the front cab of an ambulance where the general public can see you. Indeed, drooling on the dashboard is considered bad form. There are, however, ways to appear alert and oriented while holding an unconscious vigil at your post. The best way involves wearing a flesh-colored C-collar around your neck. Your skull will remain in an upright position, while the collar will prevent possible sudden head jerking. (Some sleepy partners nod off so often they look like they_re pecking at corn.)”ž
As for the eyes, mirrored shades are not only a cool form of intimidation, but also prevent full eyelid exposure. For the very clever and creepy among you, consider making open-eye stickers and placing them securely on your closed eyelids. Believe me, no bystander on this planet is going to come up to you and ask for directions.
OK, you_re thinking, but what are some less drastic, spur of the moment, kinds of Ë™I-don_t-want- to-get-caught-snoozingÃ“ methodologies? The classic placement of a medical textbook or opened electronic PCR on your lap lets you keep your head in a lowered fixed position. But if you must rest your head on the dash, put a stethoscope in your ears and place the bell in your hand on the dash. That way if you_re busted, you can say you were listening for a strange knocking noise in the engine. But remember, this only works if you keep the engine running.”ž
If you_re sitting on the driver_s side, place your head on the steering column facing directly forward. That way you can say you were giving yourself an eye test with the odometer as your vision chart.”ž
I once had a partner who was prone to banging his head on the dash. I finally started taping ammonia caps to his frontal skull. It didn_t solve the problem, but it sure cracked me up.”ž
Be aware that all this effort toward appearing conscious will go for naught if you snore. CPAP yourself if you must, but put a sign in the window stating, Ë™Hazmat Staging Zone.Ã“
If caught dozing off by your supervisor, may I suggest the following line? Ë™I just gave my last patient a personal blood transfusion on scene. He_s just damn lucky I_m type O. Whoa! The room is spinning again.Ã“ Oh, and for emergency back-up, consider purchasing a medic alert bracelet with the engraved words, Ë™Prone to narcolepzzzzzzzzzz.Ã“”ž
And always remember, my sleep-deprived comrades, it_s not considered napping if you_re dreaming about work.
Until next time, stay safe … and awake … unless of course, you don_t want to.
Steve Berry has been a paramedic for the past 20 years in the”žColorado Springs area. He_s the author of the”žEMS cartoon book series I_m Not an Ambulance Driver. Visit his Web site at www.iamnotanambulancedriver.com to purchase his books.