Normalization of Deviance of Sexual Harassment in EMS

Yesterday I was strolling about the internet reading and stumbled upon an article on a local New Jersey news website about a $195,000 civil settlement related to repeated sexual assault on a female EMT by her male “chief.” This settlement and related events were discovered through an OPRA request (non-disclosure by both parties was a requirement of the settlement). The Township’s Joint Insurance Fund paid for the settlement.

As though the events described in the court documents above were not terrible on their own- the chief is still employed by Mansfield EMS (Burlington County, NJ). Yes, he still has a job “leading” EMS providers even after violating one of his employees (on multiple occasions between 2015 and 2017) and creating a hostile work environment. As a non-profit entity I have to believe their board of directors is aware of these incidents- if not before, definitely after the lawsuit.

Perhaps the above and the normalization of deviance therein shouldn’t surprise me since many New Jersey providers I know weren’t bothered by these events or that providers were left in this man’s care even after he demonstrated his inability to provide leadership or even simple care for another human being. In the same news cycle many came to the defense of two Mohawk Ambulance EMS providers harassed by a local council woman- but, few cared to defend this EMT. Yet, we wonder why this behavior persists in our culture and why we are not respected by other public service entities- we don’t take care of each other. What we allow is what will continue.

What does this say to the citizens Mansfield EMS serves if a leader (and EMS provider) is accused of sexual assault and then the township settles (and attempts to hide these events)? Who are these citizens calling in their most vulnerable moments? Who exactly is showing up in their homes?

Relatedly, how does this “chief” still have an EMT certification? While this is a civil settlement and no criminal charges were filed, per their website NJ OEMS has previously launched investigations (and some suspensions/ revocations) of providers certifications based on providers’ behavior or in some cases charges, not convictions.

There are many excellent EMS providers in New Jersey; I have the privilege to work with a few of them. This one provider’s actions don’t reflect our mindset or beliefs- but our actions, or inactions, do. Allowing this kind of behavior in our community makes us liable. Not addressing this behavior allows the normalization of deviance of sexual assault and atmosphere of intimidation to continue.

I hope the Township of Mansfield and Mansfield EMS and NJ OEMS will do what’s right and replace this chief to protect and honor their EMS providers and their citizens. I hope other New Jersey EMS providers will stand for their colleagues if this happens to them and if need be vote with their feet (you never know if it will happen to you).

We are responsible for our profession and each other.

What we allow is what will continue.

“Chief” Lewis, we see you.




On a day like today…

So many short years later, Father Judge’s last homily is a reminder and a blessing to all of us on the job. I found it last night once again and wanted to share it, as I often find this homily to be a balm for the various wounds life and this job can visit on us. I hope you find his words to be as well. The emphasis in color is mine.

“Good morning, everyone.

May the grace of God the Father, peace of God the Son, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

We come to this house this morning to celebrate renewal, rejuvenation, new life.  We come to thank God for the blessings over all the years – the good work that’s been done here and especially the last few days.  We can never thank God enough for the reality of the lives we have.  So, standing in His presence this morning, and truly this is a chapel, let us pause for a moment, perhaps close our eyes, and thank God for some special blessings in our individual lives.

Let us pray.

Thank you Lord for life.  Thank you for love.  Thank you for goodness.  Thank you for work.  Thank you for family.  Thank you for friends.  Thank you for every gift because we know that every gift comes from you, and without you, we have and are nothing.  So, as we celebrate this day in thanksgiving to you, keep our hearts and minds open. Let us enjoy each other’s company, and most of all, let us be conscious of Your presence in our lives and in a special way in the lives of all those who have gone before us.  And Father we make our prayer, as always, in Jesus’ name who lives with You forever and ever.

That’s the way it is.  Good days.  And bad days.  Up days.  Down days.  Sad days.  Happy days.  But never a boring day on this job.  You do what God has called you to do.  You show up.  You put one foot in front of another.  You get on the rig and you go out and you do the job – which is a mystery.  And a surprise.  You have no idea when you get on that rig.  No matter how big the call.  No matter how small.  You have no idea what God is calling you to.  But he needs you.  He needs me.  He needs all of us.  

The retirees – He needs your prayers.  He needs your stopping by occasionally to give strength and support and to tell the stories of the old days.  We need the house and to those of you that are working now, keep going.  Keep supporting each other.  Be kind to each other.  Love each other.  Work together and do what you did the other night and the weeks and the months and the years before and from this house, God’s blessings go forth in this community.  It’s fantastic!

What great people.  We love the job.  We all do.  What a blessing that is.  A difficult, difficult job and God calls you to it.  And then He gives you a love for it so that a difficult job will be well done.  Isn’t He a wonderful God?  Isn’t He good to you?  To each one of you?  And to me!  Turn to Him each day.  Put your faith and your trust and your hope and your life in His hands, and He’ll take care of you and you’ll have a good life.

And this house will be a great, great blessing to this neighborhood and to this city.


fr judge

Fr. Michael Judge

Chaplan FDNY

EOW 09/11/01

My Father’s Daughter


When I was a kid my dad had a Camaro.

Before you get too excited, it was a beater. I hated this car. I was 10 and had already discovered the necessity of “cool”- this car wasn’t it. 1967 body with primer grey and rust accented exterior, ripped up black leather seats (the front passenger seat missing) completed the visual affront. A rowdy muffler announced my arrival or departure at school for all to witness.

My dad was so proud of his car. He’s a car guy. When I was 5 or 6 he started to show me under the hood so I would understand how things worked- and before gender specificity set in I wanted to be a mechanic like my dad. This was his fantasy car and “when he won the lottery” he was going to fix it up like it used to be. There is something emotional about owning a car, a freedom, an identity.


He normally kept it in the garage, but recent years were lean and we couldn’t afford a new car when the last one died. My 5th grade ego was tired of being teased and I was quite honest about my contempt and its perceived effect on my popularity regardless of our financial means.

One day I steeled myself to walk out to the pick-up line after school and meet my fate, but didn’t see the car. I looked around and saw my dad standing at the top of the hill up the block; his ripped jeans and black skull t-shirt stood out among the moms waiting for their kids.

I walked up to him, “Hey Dad, where’s the car?”

“It’s at home. It broke down so I had to walk here.”

Of course it did, I thought silently.

I was relieved for the reprieve.  A large group of us began to walk home, my dad bringing up the back talking with different kids. Slowly the group dwindled as kids began to peel off toward their homes. About half a mile into the walk he suggested we stop and get ice cream. No Camaro AND ice cream on the same day!

We got our treat and continued to walk for a few more blocks when I saw the Camaro. My dad pulled the keys out of his pocket.

“I thought you said the car broke down at home,” I asked.

“I know you don’t like the car, so I decided to walk today.”

I have NEVER  felt more like an asshole in my life.

I learned an enduring lesson about loving people and sacrifices we proudly bear because of love that day.

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My father appears to be a rough man, but would help or protect anyone in need. He doesn’t often tell stories, but when he does his face lights up and you imagine you are right there in the thick of it. He taught me how to fight and have situational awareness as a little girl so I would be safe when he wasn’t there. He watched as I learned hard lessons about people and never said “I told you so,” he was just there, silently supportive. At 17 when I had my own beater, I was the only girl (school uniform and all) who knew how to change tires and my friends and I never got stuck anywhere, because he made sure I knew how.

He taught me many silent ways how to care for others: teaching without judgement, providing, lending a hand. He has probably taught me things I haven’t even discovered yet. His example helped me become who I am and to be able to approach EMS, my brothers and sisters, and patients with open hands looking to help. I hope I end up being half the person he is.



National EMS Memorial Events 2017


The National EMS Memorial Foundation is a non-profit organization to honor the commitment, service, and sacrifice of our nation’s EMS providers that have died in the line of duty and those who continue to serve. The foundation also endeavors to establish a physical national memorial in our Nation’s capital or surrounding area, similar to those already established for police and fire. In addition to this mission, NEMSMF holds several events to honor our brothers and sisters who have made the ultimate sacrifice, and died in the line of duty.

Saturday, May 13, 2017 10:00 to 11:00

National EMS Memorial Bike Ride East Coast Send Off – Boston City Hall, Boston, MA


In conjunction with the National EMS Memorial Bike Ride held by the Muddy Angels, NEMSMF will participate in the send off ceremony for the East Coast route of the National EMS Memorial Bike Ride. The events will include the first Reading of the Names for 2017.

There should be other events on the route- check the schedule if you are local to the route.

Friday, May 19, 2017 to Sunday, May 21, 2017

National EMS Memorial Service Weekend of Honor – Washington, DC


The Weekend of Honor is comprised of multiple events to honor the EMS providers that have given the ultimate sacrifice and to provide support their loved ones, EMS providers, family and friends are welcome.  Some of the events include: Welcoming the EMS Memorial Bike Riders to DC, Dealing with Our Loss for survivors, National EMS Memorial Service, and Family Breakfast. If you are unable to make it to the event, there is a link to a live streaming of the memorial service at the link above.

Sunday, May, 21, 2017 13:00

14th Annual EMS Day at Citi Field with the Mets – Queens, NY


An afternoon of fun with the NY Mets as they take on the Los Angeles Angels. Special pricing and packages for EMS providers available. Proceeds from this event benefit EMT Yadira Arroyo’s family and NEMSMF.

Please share with your brothers and sisters. In the next few weeks I will be posting more information on NCEMSF and federal legislation related to the building of a physical EMS memorial in the Nation’s capital.

Paramedics Love Pens

If you don’t have anything nice to say, make pens?

While sitting at post today waiting for our next assignment I was scrolling through Facebook and happened upon a dark humor page I hadn’t seen before. Honestly, I have unfollowed or ignored a lot of these pages because I lose my mind, get sucked into arguments and just like recent political internet arguments- nothing changes. As the adage goes, if you argue with a fool we all know who LOOKS like a fool in the end.

While scrolling through the new, unnamed page I found this:


I get the gist of the joke. It’s not funny.

While we’re on the subject of jokes about suicide, that “it’s this way not that way.” That’s not funny either.

Dark humor and making fun of the most horrible things in the world are ways for EMS providers to keep their sanity when joked about in the right setting. Suicide is never one of those things.

What kind of atmosphere does that create for the provider that has been hedging on asking for help, but now feels like a joke because of an offhand comment? How we talk about and treat our patients demonstrates to our brothers and sisters how we might treat them.

Awareness and education on provider mental health and suicide are only a piece of addressing this problem. Each of us must commit to changing the culture of our service to allow the helpers to ask for help when they need it. These kinds of statements perpetrate the culture of silence and suicide in our industry. Open lines of communication begin when our brothers and sisters don’t feel judged before they open their mouths. Words are powerful- whether as weapons to tear down or tools to build up.

Most of us don’t even realize we are sending unintentional messages.

Be aware of the things you say and how you say them. The solution to helping the helpers begins with us.



National Suicide Prevention Hotline: (800) 273-TALK

National Hope Line Network: (800) SUICIDE

Safe Call Now (First Responder Specific): (206) 459-3020

What goes through a medic’s mind?

Ginger Locke is infatuated with the minds of medics.


She is a paramedic educator, researcher, author, blogger, and social media maven (please see awesome memes below). She has recently transformed her written word blog into a multimedia paradise featuring her new podcast, Medic Mindset, where she interviews medics delving into what makes them tick. She was inspired by her medic students questions as they became newly minted medics and wanted to help others know what to expect from their profession by interviewing working medics that share their honest perceptions and experiences. Clinical, operational, and personal topics are all present. Click above to access her blog and listen for yourself.


The most recent episode features Fiona Thomas from The Code Green Campaign. The Code Green Campaign provides awareness of EMS provider mental health and suicide via shared stories, collects anonymous reports to track EMS suicides (in concert with Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance), and provides education for the EMS community. Their site also has a section with mental health providers and programs that specialize in treating first responders.


Fiona shares the origins of Code Green, personal inspirations, and her ever changing career evolution. She also shares her clinical experiences as a paramedic, what challenges her clinically, and how she personally deals with stress and mitigating the effects of work. She also has some interesting non-EMS related jobs.

She discusses the cathartic effect journaling produces for her and it’s role in helping her release stress. Fiona pulls from her non-EMS life experience, sharing that “words matter,” not just the written word, but the actions our verbiage denotes and images they inspire and communicate.

Fiona gives some sage advice to her younger self (and the rest of us) to “just stick it out.” As EMS providers, and perhaps my personal experiences, we tend to give up when things get hard (professional or personal).

She continues by advising us to “listen to your patient.” We all know patients will tell you when they are going to die, vomit, or have a baby. But, what about the patients who aren’t in the throes of an emergency- listen to their stories or what they are telling you they need, even if it’s not in your clinical arsenal


I’m not going to spoil the ENTIRE episode for you – you’ll have to listen yourself!

If you aspire to be a student of the profession and stay abreast of current topics in EMS, make it your business to follow Ginger and Medic Mindset.


Social Suicide

This blog post is a part of  the second “What If We’re Wrong Blog-a-thon.” You can find the other posts here. The premise of this event is to play the devil’s advocate and argue the opposite view on a topic we normally cover.

In my lecture, “Selfie Sabotage” I discuss how to use social media to your advantage as a tool to promote your EMS career and increase your professional prospects. My personal experience using social media as an EMS provider has been a positive one; I have been able to advance my exposure in the industry over the past three years promoting my writing and making key connections with other EMS leaders using social media applications. Most others with an eye on improving their career prospects and the inclination or appropriate training have minimal issues with using these applications professionally or difficulty keeping their personal life out of their professional one… but we all know at least one story about a professional meltdown with social media as the weapon of choice.


Social media use is not a right. Unfortunately, most use it with abandon and no method of policing themselves or ability to pause before posting something controversial. There are reasons agencies place restrictions on their employees use of these applications; yes, you may “say” what you like, but there are always repercussions in real and virtual life.


  • “It’s on the internet, so it must be true.” I am a fan of curation in addition to producing content, however many social media users do not check the sources behind information, whether articles or photographs, that they share with their followers. The next people don’t check their sources and share and so on until a lie becomes the “truth.” Obviously, there are entertainment spoof sites like The Onion and Gomerblog, which most understand are tongue in cheek and not real news. Outside that, what do you look like to other providers and prospective employers when you share inaccurate information on a clinical level? What if you take a “clinical” article as gospel and it’s wrong? Could that be detrimental to patients in your care? It’s up to the reader to vet their sources and sadly most don’t.


  • Misrepresentation is rampant on the internet – and not just for online dating. It’s easy to slip past embellishment in a virtual environment; the virtual nature implies privacy and anonymity, but could not be further from the truth. I have been a witness to many conversations in chat groups or comment threads where one provider knows another and calls them to the carpet on the fib related to their stated experience or certification. I have also witnessed others researching a provider purporting to be someone their not and revealing the true status or level of their certification or employment. Not exactly the best way to be noticed.


  • It’s much easier to put your foot in your mouth with the insulation of the internet. That ranges from outlandish tweets to insensitive memes to inadvertent missteps. The results are wide ranging: insulting patients, offending your coworkers or peers, breaking agency protocols leading to your dismissal (and possible blackballing from emergency services), to causing safety concerns for yourself, your partners, and other emergency agencies in your area.

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Many EMS providers, and people at large, place too much faith in the content they find online. Just yesterday a friend posted an article that was an absolute lie, many people knew it was inaccurate and informed him; others commented and took it blindly as the truth. Posting on any social media site requires the same mindset as face to face interaction. If you are not willing to invest the time to pause before you post when you are unsure or ranting then you should limit your social media use. These missteps makes EMS look foolish as a whole.  If you don’t have anything nice to say – just don’t say anything at all.

Like No One is Watching

Sometimes you don’t even notice the people watching.


I mean, we’re all busy right? So many tasks to complete in a certain number of hours and only a certain number of hours in a day, can leave everything in a little bit of a blur. Constant working and feeling like you never get anywhere can leave you really frustrated and focused on all the bad things going on; even like your work was worth it.

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I recently left an agency where I had a leadership role. The past year or so, I felt stagnant and voiceless; a few months ago, I decided as soon as I finished my agreed upon term, I was going to resign. I felt it was better not to “waste” any more of my time. So, for the last few weeks I have been prepping my replacements, giving them information, who to ask for what, how to avoid regular road bumps of people’s personalities. Yesterday, I turned over my keys to my replacement and punched out for the last time. Just before I did, something unexpected happened.

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People came up to me one at a time in the last few hours and said: Thank you. Thank you for doing a good job, working hard, helping out. Finally, my partner came up, I could see on his face he was about to say something mushy. He went on to wish me good luck and that we’d probably see each other at the hospitals and then…

“…thank you for teaching me.”

Wow. Just wow. I am so humbled on so many levels; mostly that someone thinks anything I had to say helped them become a better healer, to use their hands, head, and heart to take care of others. This whole time I didn’t think anyone was watching, using the work I was putting in. I thought maybe the whole thing was a waste of time.

It was me looking in the wrong place.

I was looking for acknowledgment from those who would never be moved. I was so zeroed in on their obstinance that I couldn’t see the people who did matter: the people I was leading and teaching by example.

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Some days I am so mad with EMS and all our shenanigans and tantrums and prima donna antics that I could just spit. I wonder if anything will ever change with just the minority of forward thinkers ready to depart from the ideas of yesteryear. But then, every so often, you find out someone WAS watching. What will you be teaching them?

It seems appropriate at this time to say thank you to all the people I watched when I was a new guy and watch today to learn how to be a better provider, leader, and human being. Every day I realize there are even more than I thought, when I remember an appropriate story or anecdote related to a present situation. Yes, that even includes folks I don’t care for very much because they left a sour taste in my mouth. I thank all of you, thank you for letting me watch and learn, thank you for sharing that part of yourself.

Have You Had “The Conversation”?

My plan was to watch some “mindless” television and lay on the bed and more than likely take a little nap to enjoy the afternoon during my mini vacation. The last channel watched was HLN and Dr. Drew was on with a panel discussing Bobbi Christina starting hospice care. Dr. Drew did not mince words when he described how the human body reacts to existing in a comatose state for any length of time. Many of the other panelists were very upset by the description he gave, yet medically it was accurate. How many of our patients have we seen well past the ability to make health care choices for themselves either without family members or with family members that don’t know the reality of the end of life trying to do the best they can?


It is difficult to have influence over a total plan of care that true end of life care should be as prehospital providers with limited interaction time with the patient and their family, often in high stress situations that are not ideal for such a conversation. Yet, there are things we CAN do:

  • We CAN be aware of what services are offered in our response areas either for in patient or out patient and mention them to the patient and or family to follow up on later during an appropriately timed conversation.

  • We CAN also be aware of these services so we can be a part of the end of life health care team when patients have a plan in place

  • We CAN communicate our concerns with Emergency Department staff so they can discuss options with patient and family at a later time.

  • We CAN be aware of our state statutes regarding advance directives and our role in honoring them.

  • We CAN consider end of life care as important as other clinical issues when pursuing continuing education opportunities.

  • We CAN treat (ALL) patients and their families with dignity and care at all times.


We also need to have this conversation with our families and loved ones and have end of life plans in place for both financial and health care concerns. In our line of work we are always aware that we could possibly be gravely injured or killed in the field, yet many of us don’t have a contingency plan to provide for our families’ well being and peace of mind in the horrible event that something should happen to us. This conversation is not just about what we would like to happen in the event we are unable to make medical or other decisions, but what kind of quality of life we expect and how that should happen. Will you expect your family to be your caregiver? Are they able to play that role? What do they expect if such an incident was to occur? Some things to consider:

  • Preparing a Living Will. This communicates to healthcare providers what kind of treatment you would like and in what situations.

  • Preparing a Healthcare Power of Attorney or appointing a Healthcare Proxy. This person is should be aware of what your preferences are for your healthcare and acts on your behalf in healthcare matter when you are unable to communicate.

  • Would you like to donate your organs? Some states require a registry, others allow you to note it on your drivers license, but you should prepare your family before an incident so they are aware of your choice.

  • Obtain Life Insurance. Health insurance is a hot topic in the United States today, but not much mention is made of life insurance which provides for our families financial well being after we are gone and unable to provide for them anymore.

    To be sure, no one wants to die, much less think and talk about it. We are hardwired as humans to love life and do whatever it takes to keep it. Yet, as unfortunate as it is, death will come for all of us and is an important event in our loved ones lives as well. Our demeanor will decide if it is a destructive event or one filled with the love and care of our loved ones celebrating a life well lived. Part of preparing for that celebration is being open to the conversation of end of life planning and bringing our loved ones into the fold with care and compassion.

EOL Cartoon

Is Too Much Starch A Bad Thing?

This blog is part of a larger “What-If-We’re-Wrong-a-Thon” by several EMS bloggers where we attempt to view the opposite point of view on a topic we have previously taken a stand on. You can find the other articles here.

This weekend I had the opportunity to attend the Connecticut State EMS Conference (more on that in another post). One of the sessions was about professionalism by Dr. David Powers. Honestly, I wasn’t sure how much more there was to say on the topic, it seems pretty straight forward. However, after attending I came away wondering is there such a thing as being too professional?

Google defines professionalism as: the competence or skill expected of a professional; the practicing of an activity, especially a sport, by professional rather than amateur players. This leaves quite a wide berth for perception of what is professional in terms of being an EMS provider. Please note it does not say “volunteer” or “paid”, but rather “professional” or “amateur”. I think we can all imagine some folks on both sides regardless of their compensation status.

Of course, there are some issues related to being “professional” that are non-negotiable:

-personal hygiene
-general cleanliness (people and equipment)
-using some sort of identifier that you are a responder and not just a bystander
-using any clothing or items related to safety (ANSI vests and the like)

Now that we have laid a foundation to be able to assess what it means at a base level to be a professional, how can individuals in various roles perceive professionalism differently? Is your Chief’s perception of what it means to be professional different from yours?  What do our patients think a professional looks like?

Cast from Nightwatch
Cast from Nightwatch

The cast from Nightwatch was one of the examples brought up in the lecture I attended, specifically about some of the cast members visible tattoos. In the past visible tattoos have been a hot button depending on your location and agency. Some providers were required to cover visible tattoos or wear long sleeves all year to keep them hidden. However, tattoos are now readily accepted in most of society and they could be used as a tool to related to certain patients.  To be sure, all patients are different, and some may take offense, particularly if the art in question is garish or overtly sexual, though that doesn’t seem to be common. Do they look professional to you? They look clean, their uniforms are neat and shirts are tucked in, pants held up with a belt, the tattoos are noticeable, but not the first thing you notice. If their community members and agency accepts it, they look like good providers to me (note we didn’t even discuss their clinical skills yet… perception is everything).

EMS Provider or Police Officer?
EMS Provider or Police Officer?


Could we look neat, clean, and in uniform, but be perceived by patients and family as “professionals” other than EMS providers? In the appropriate circumstance this uniform is appropriate and necessary for personal safety, but what about everyday use? If you were not involved in our service would you know if the man above was an EMT or paramedic or a police officer? Could looking militaristic be averse to excellent patient care?  Could our uniforms cause more anxiety for patients and exacerbate their already compromised health? Could a uniform like this lead to safety and security issues for crews while they are on duty due to mistaken identity or intent?



Another part of the conversation in class was looking “too” professional. Funerals and special events do require an extra degree of attention to your uniform, but on a daily basis is your uniform so perfect you look like you didn’t work at work? If you are a white shirt, could your subordinates feel distanced from you because they feel you don’t relate to the “workers” and forgot what the “street” is like? Of course, this is not an excuse to roll out of bed and into the ambulance looking rumpled and bedraggled, but could looking too perfect be intimidating; like the proverbial beautiful woman who can’t get a date because men feel she is unapproachable?

While we shouldn’t throw away the idea of becoming professionals and being at the top of our game, particularly in our industry where life and safety are at the top or our responsibilities, we should take a step back and imagine the situation and perception that may be applied when we arrive on scene. Being presentable and clean are still important, but is a creased patch an absolute requirement to do the best CPR or be kind to a scared patient? Perhaps, less starch could be used in application to the topic of uniforms and appearance by staunch advocates, such as myself, when reviewing everyday EMS scenarios.