My Boss Cared More About Saving Money Than Saving Lives
Early in my career, I loved my job as a paramedic in Arizona. I got a thrill from the rush of lights and sirens. I prided myself on being a calm source of information and a shoulder to cry on for the people I served. When I was promoted to supervisor, and then to operations manager for the whole county, it was exciting. I loved leading fellow responders. I looked forward to designing training programs and working with new hires. Balancing and managing our multimillion-dollar budget was a challenge I relished.
But after a few years, we were bought out by a competitor. My boss was fired, and his replacement had never before supervised any emergency medical services. His previous experience was managing a Kmart store.
My new marching orders were narrow: Save money, then save more money. Pay minimum wage. If people don’t like it, fire them and hire new ones to take their place. People are a renewable commodity, so spending lots of money on training is wasteful. Shorten orientation. Remove a day from the driver training program. Cut all the field incentive programs which I put in place as morale boosters. Save, save, save.
My joy turned to anxiety. They paid me to sell the new philosophy to everyone I’d told over the last year that we’d rather have well-trained people leave than untrained people stay. The workforce no longer mattered. The change was dramatic.
I had two choices: toe the company line or find another job.
One morning when I was feeling particularly desperate, my boss walked into my office and told me he was excited about his brand new company car. My blood pressure started to rise. When he told me I needed to reduce the number of ambulances on the road by three per day, my head started to spin. My attempt to reason fell on deaf ears, again.
So I invited him out to lunch. I offered to drive, and he accepted.
It was a 30-minute trip to a hole-in-the-wall place in the desert, but I assured him the food was worth it. I then told him I was going to wash my hands and asked him to order me an iced tea.
Driving away moments later, I wondered how long it would take him to realize I left. This was before cell phones. Nobody in the restaurant spoke English.
I’d never walked away from a job before, and haven’t done it since, but sometimes closure presents itself in unexpected ways. That night I slept better than I had in weeks.
A few months later, I received my acceptance letter to Wake Forest University’s Physician Assistant program. I’d been dreaming of making this change, with applications in the works for a number of years, but I hadn’t had the courage for such a big mid-life move. Not until fate intervened and forced me to make the snap decision that changed my whole life.
It’s been 18 years. I’ve never been happier.