Catalina Ambulance Service

Discussion in 'Jobs I Have Had' started by Ken Anderson, Nov 25, 2015.

  1. Ken Anderson

    Ken Anderson Senior Staff
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    When I left the employ of the City of Los Fresnos, although I still lived in Los Fresnos, I took a position with Catalina Ambulance Service. Headquartered in McAllen, Catalina served the cities of McAllen, Mission, La Feria, and a portion of Hidalgo County, Texas.

    One of the larger private services in the Rio Grande Valley at that time, Catalina was licensed for Basic Life Support, and wanted to upgrade to Mobile Intensive Care Unit, which is known as Advanced Life Support in most states. That’s the level that includes paramedics, able to administer medications and provide other forms of advanced care, which might differ according to protocol.

    As I was certified as an EMS instructor and coordinator, my job was to hold emergency medical technology courses on the premises, upgrading its staff to the EMT-Intermediate and EMT-Paramedic levels. Catalina already had personnel at the EMT-I and EMT-P levels, but needed more in order to run all of its emergency units at the advanced level.

    Catalina was based at a trailer park near downtown McAllen, and included its offices in one trailer, a trailer for its transfer crews, another for its emergency crews, and another for me to use as a classroom. Plus, they rented an apartment for the crew that covered north McAllen, and were given a room at McAllen Medical Center for the crew covering the area around the hospitals.

    Most people didn’t like being stationed at MMC because, being right there, they spent much of their days bringing non-ambulatory patients from the hospital back to the nursing home or other non-emergencies. With few exceptions, EMTs like emergency calls.

    As I had been teaching EMT classes through Texas Southmost College for years, I already knew a lot of the people who worked for Catalina, as some of them had been my students at one point or another, while others helped out with skills classes or had worked for companies near Los Fresnos, and there were a few who had volunteered for Los Fresnos EMS at one time or another.

    Although I was only there for a couple of years, I really enjoyed my time at Catalina. I don’t know that I have ever worked with a better group of people. I am still friends with many of the people I worked with at Catalina.

    Since I lived in Los Fresnos, about sixty miles from McAllen, driving to and from work every day would eat up a couple of hours, so I often stayed in my classroom trailer at night and, since I was there, I was available whenever the emergency crews needed backup services. I didn’t have classes every day either, so I worked several shifts as well.

    However, once I had completed enough classes to have upgraded the levels of most of Catalina’s crews, as well as a couple of EMT-Basic courses for new employees, my job there was pretty much complete. I could have stayed on if I wanted to, but Texas State Technical Institute had become Texas State Technical College, with campuses in Harlingen and McAllen, and they were looking for a program chairman for their emergency medical technology program, and the regional director of the Texas Department of Health recommended me. He later applied for the job himself, which is another story, but I was hired.

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  2. Cheryl Torrie

    Cheryl Torrie Member
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    I have always been interested in what attracts a person to Emergency Care. My brother was an EMT in NY just about the time that HIV was all over the news. It's not a high paying job in NY and it's typically long, odd hour shifts. I just couldn't understand what the attraction was. When you were teaching did you find that the draw was public service? adrenaline rush? a stepping stone to another medical position? I'm sure it's a rewarding career option when you are driven by helping others and have the demeanor for it but I couldn't stay calm enough or remember enough under high stress levels. What was the most common reason for becoming an EMT?
     
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  3. Ken Anderson

    Ken Anderson Senior Staff
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    This is an old post, I know, but I just came across it. I don't mean to ignore questions or posts directed to me, but sometimes I don't see everything.

    I didn't plan to go into the EMS field. I was talked into taking a class and volunteering with our local ambulance service, as several people from my church were involved. Over the years, EMS became the single most significant career that I have been engaged in, although certainly not the better paying. While doctors and nurses in hospital emergency departments save lives, often in dramatic ways, there is usually a whole team of medical professionals involved, while the paramedic is alone with his patient in the back of the ambulance. In medical and traumatic emergencies, decisions have to be made within seconds, and there's usually no one around to correct you or to suggest another course of treatment if you're wrong. In emergency departments, I have seen that nurses will sometimes rescue the attending physician when he or she misses something or orders a wrong drug, and there are sometimes even more than one doctor involved. There are times when a second paramedic is available to assist in the back of the ambulance but not usually, as ambulances are staffed with two people, and one of them is driving.

    In fact, that's one of the decisions that have to be made. Should I stay on the scene during the course of treatment so that my partner can assist or should we be en route to the hospital with a short scene time? If the patient survives, whatever decision I made will have been the right one but if the patient dies, I could be second-guessed in a malpractice suit. If the hospital was five minutes away, why did you stay on the scene for ten? So yes, there's a lot of pressure but when things go right, they can go very right, and either way, it's exciting.

    Like any other job, people enter into it for different reasons, and most enjoy it for a lot of reasons. There are many people who truly are most interested in being able to save lives and help people. Others may want to be a part of a community, as EMS is a community. There is the lure of the uniform, patches, the badge, and the lights and siren. Also, I won't deny that it was always fun to see myself on television or in the newspaper. My favorite was motor vehicle accidents or attempted murders because the maximum amount of excitement was going on, the press was probably involved, and the treatment was usually pretty straightforward, although often challenging. As for staying calm or dealing with situations that might otherwise be disgusting, when there is a job to do you really don't think about that sort of thing until later, and the best way to stay calm was to fake it, and within a few moments, it becomes true.

    Many of the people I have worked with or taught are doctors and nurses now, but others have been working EMS for forty years or more, by which time they are probably in supervisory or management roles.
     
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  4. Ken Anderson

    Ken Anderson Senior Staff
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    I just thought of something that had me laughing to myself, about thirty years later. While I was working at Catalina, the owner (who was a female) invited the crew to a Mexican restaurant in McAllen. While we were there, she and our director (who was male) moved to a table on the other side of the room where no one else was seated, apparently because she had something she needed to discuss with him.

    We told the Mariachi singers that this was their wedding anniversary, and paid them to go play a love song for them. Watching, I could see that the owner was a little irritated, but wanted to be polite. She even tipped them again for the song. Ten minutes later, we sent them over there again, and then a third time. I don't think Lupita knew what was going on but Horatio did. I don't know why I still find it so funny, but I do.

    I wasn't there long because I was hired by the college to run their EMT program, but Catalina was a fun place to work. I am still in touch with several of the people I worked with there on Facebook.
     
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