We are the 98%

It’s easy in our business to see only the trees and miss the bigger forest. We see diabetics who can’t/won’t take care of themselves, alcoholics, unrepentant drunks, welfare abusers, common colds, nervous parents, and malingerers of all stripes. We even have one man who routinely calls because he gets lonely.

We see nursing homes that neglect patients, doctors who leave patients with evolving MIs in the hallway for us, and visiting nurses who think 150/96 is a hypertensive emergency. It’s easy to feel that everyone is wasting our time.

I’m here to tell you to take a step back. Our cities are full of decent, hard working people striving to make ends meet. The vast majority of them will never call 911, and thus we don’t get to meet them.

Let’s look at a bit of the math. I work 48 hours a week spread across two small cities. If I project a call every hour (which we don’t do) that’s 2496 calls per year without including vacations and overtime. Wikipedia shows a total population for my two cities of 133,664. If each of my calls was for a unique patient (which they aren’t) I would see slightly less than 1.9% of the population in a given year. Many of the patients I do see actually need an ambulance, too.

Less than 2% as a worst case scenario.

When you start to feel that the whole world is full of people who don’t really need an ambulance, you are right. They are the 98%.