I have been a Paramedic for almost 10 years, including two years at Virtua.
My older brother, when I was about 14 years old, became a paramedic. I did not realize some people could not handle the stress during emergencies. I thought it was normal. I became a paramedic at a fairly young age, ?? old. I know now that it is something that not many people can do and I want to help the people of my community in their time of need. First responders are few and far between.
We need accountability, a system of checks and balance at Virtua. Between management making whatever rule they feel is appropriate to our operations team ignoring the fact that our fleet is aging, we have no voice, no say in how things gets done around here. We are merely here at the whim of our employer.
Why should Burlington and Camden counties care about you organizing?
Often, we are the first face of Virtua Health that anybody sees and it’s at a vulnerable time in a person’s life, when their very lives may be in the balance. Our fleet is outdated and multiple vehicles over 250,000 miles. Emergency vehicles often break down when we respond to emergencies. Having an emergency vehicle break down at that very moment is embarrassing and it could have tragic consequences. Virtua should care about this because it represents how the hospital shows it cares about patients, and assisting them in their emergency, that they matter.
How do we do that when we to show up in a vehicle that cannot get the patient to the care that they need?
What would you accomplish by organizing?
We want to create an environment of equality, where we are not pushed around at the whim of our employer. We are tired of feeling disposable, of feeling unwanted. We want to have the ability to speak up for ourselves and not be worried about the recourse. More than that, we want to provide proper medical care to patients and not be worried that, on a whim of how someone feels that day, we would be reprimanded.
What would being respected on the job look like?
I would feel heard and have due process to resolve issues that come up in the workplace. I won’t be treated differently than a co-worker or be arbitrarily reprimanded for the care I provide. Paramedics have been brought to tears after being talked down to. That must end. We are trained and licensed professionals who show up in the worst moment of a person’s life and work in a stressful, PTSD-inducing environment. Rather than being belittled, we should be appreciated and respected.
We want administrators to back us up, not second guess us or take the side of outside agencies because we’re fighting for what’s best for our patients.