Sunday, September 22, 2013

Schticks of One...

...Half a dozen of the other...

(I've been using this tag for a few years, but didn't
see someone had posted this last year...)
Y'know, if it hadn't been for Spike Jones and Victor Borge and Allan Sherman, there might never have been a Weird Al Yankovic.

I. My Dream Job

One that I could never qualify for, but what the hell.

Tillerman on a hook and ladder (that's the guy steering the wheels on the trailer).

II. Heard Around The Barn

Senior Guy: "What kind of lights did Noah have on the Ark?"
Junior Guy: "I dunno..."
Senior Guy: "Flood lights, of course."

III. Pet Blogging

Not by me, but by Michael Morse. He's trying to raise funds for an animal rescue operation (where Cousin Wilson adopted Michael and his wife). He says he won't let Wilson into the house till he has some contributions*. I'd contribute, except I'm so broke, Tim Allen couldn't fix me. If you could go to his blog and toss a couple of bucks Wilson's way, I'd appreciate it.

And Wilson could get back on the couch.

* I don't think Michael is really refusing to let Wilson in, he's just trying to shame us.

Gimme That Old Time Music...

Back when I was a nipper, my parents took me to see a ragtime piano show by a guy named Max Morath for my 13th birthday. They had the album of the show I went to, and I just found it on YouTube. Listen to each part of the album... really good music, and wonderful showmanship. Two of my all-time favorites are "Take Me Out To The Ball Game" (Part 4) and "Where Did Robinson Crusoe Go With Friday On Saturday Night?" (Final Part).  The drinking songs in Part 3 and the "dirty" songs in Part 5 are also wonderful (and John Valby doesn't have to worry about competition from these dirty ditties).

I've been to about 30 of his shows since. And I asked him to autograph that original 1969 program each time. Poor guy would see that battered old program and pop another dozen gray hairs.

Every one of his many albums is well worth the listen.

In fact, here he is, performing Scott Joplin's immortal Maple Leaf Rag.  Hey, if Badtux can do it, so can I.

Bonus track: Ethan Uslan performing The Blue Danube as a rag.

And a BONUS bonus track ('cuz I just love me some Spike Jones):

I'm Glad I'm Not Jewish.

Not that there's anything wrong with being Jewish, mind you.

Back when I was a kid, I thought it would be great to be Jewish... a whole second set of holidays from school, and their version of Christmas lasted nine days. NINE days of presents!

Then one of my Jewish friends delivered the death blow as far as I was concerned: no bacon, no ham, no sausage, no pork.

The lovely yet talented Mrs618 made a pork roast tonight, with apple stuffing and baby carrots sautéed in butter and brown sugar.

Yeah, for that, I'm glad I gave up the dreidels.

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Attracting, Recruiting, and Retaining Volunteers

One of the biggest problems facing volunteer organizations today is attracting and retaining qualified volunteers. Whether its a volunteer FD or EMS agency, a local Red Cross or Salvation Army chapter, food pantry, pet shelter, whatever, the ranks of volunteers are becoming alarmingly thin. With the economy the way it is these days, those fortunate enough to have jobs often have two jobs, trying to make ends meet. The spouse will often have two jobs, as well. In addition, there is that nebulous conglomeration of housecleaning, cooking, etc, not to mention a couple of things I have heard of, called "sleep" and "having a life." The result is simply insufficient time to engage in volunteer activities.

For skilled volunteer professions like firefighting or EMS, there are ever-increasing training requirements to be met.

For example, the EMT-Basic class is now somewhere around 200 hours, plus clinical rotations and state and national Registry testing. In Maine, an EMT-Basic is also required to have a minimum of 38 hours of Continuing Education, in the following areas: Preparatory, Operations; Airway, Breathing, Circulation; Assessment; Medical; Trauma; Obstetrics, Pediatrics; Psychomotor Skills; and Further Continuing Ed (essentially, electives).

Firefighters are in an even tougher situation: most departments encourage and strive for Firefighter I and II certification, but many also require Haz-Mat Operations, EMT-Basic, commercial driver licenses, or other skills. The career fire departments -- FDNY, Boston, DC, LA -- include these topics in their 3-6 month academies. The volunteers, however, do it a couple of hours a night, a couple of evenings a week... for a couple of YEARS. Yet the public expects volunteer firefighters in Pudunk, Maine, to have the same basic skillset as FDNY (and notice I said basic skill set, not the sophisticated things like high-rise firefighting, urban search and rescue, dive team, or air operations). It is an understandable expectation, even if perhaps currently unattainable.

Volunteers are expected to attend training sessions and meetings without compensation, even if they receive nominal compensation while responding to calls. Many volunteer departments charge annual dues, require members to pay for (required) training out of their own pockets, and some even require members to purchase their own firefighting gear (which runs about $2000 per person).

What's the quick-n-easy solution? There isn't one.

Some not-so-easy solutions:
  • Eliminate volunteer fire departments and EMS and go to career departments. This would cost a bloody fortune, which most taxpayers would refuse to authorize. A full-time firefighter costs at least $100,000 per year, depending on base pay, benefits, etc. In rural areas, this would probably take the form of a county department, similar to the situation in Virginia and Maryland.
  • Eliminate most of the training requirements for volunteers agencies. This would be unacceptable from a public safety point of view. Firefighting and EMS require highly specialized skills... after all, we are literally talking life and death here. Besides, we don't mind training, we just don't want it to take over our lives, especially if it's training in skills we are not allowed to use (foolish, yes, but it happens).
  • Reevaluate training using evidence-based research, and provide government-funded stipends. There is a lot of training that continues simply because "this is the way we've always done it," regardless of the impact on patient outcome (for example, backboarding patients based solely on mechanism of injury as opposed to appropriate assessment); eliminating such outmoded protocols would allow more efficient use of training time and improve patient care. Extending existing stipends to cover training time would reimburse participants somewhat for committing their time to the community. Most stipends, by way the, are nominal at best: $15.00 per call, or $500.00 per year. Nobody will ever get rich working as a volunteer.
  • Leave things the way they are. And watch the ranks of volunteers thin even more. We need sufficient staffing and resources to do our jobs properly and safely. But even more importantly, perhaps, we need time off, too, no matter how dedicated we are, time to spend with our wives (or husbands) and children, time to have a couple of beers, time to just kick back and do nothing.
Since I got sidetracked and came back to this a couple of hours later (and since my train of thought left me on the platform), I'll come back to this topic, looking at each aspect of the problem, and -- maybe -- suggesting some possible solutions.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Medical Product Review: BATCLIP

A number of the other medical bloggers have done product reviews, so I figured I would toss in my two cents.

A few months ago, I ran across something that fulfills all three needs.

The BatClip was developed by one of our local ED physicians, and is a great way to keep your stethoscope handy, yet out of the way. (It also looks really cool.)

It clips to your belt (either hip, it's ambidextrous) with a heavy-duty clip, and the flaps are held closed with Velcro. It's made from good solid leather, and is made here in the US. It can be used with any style scope (from the $50.00 ones the physicians and medics use, to the $300 ones the newly-minted EMT-Basics buy). For me, the best part is being able to grab it and slide it onto the belt, instead of slinging it around my neck (and having it fall off almost immediately). Plus, if you get into the habit of popping your scope back into the BatClip (which can be done one-handed with a little practice) as soon as you're done with it, you're far less likely to lose the scope.

The BatClip is available through Amazon. Dr. Li is currently running a "buy 3, get 1 free" promotion; see the "Product Details" section in the amazon posting for the discount code.

And read the reviews from other users... I'm not the only one who likes it... doctors, nurses, medics, EMT-Basics, veterinarians, anyone who needs to use a stethoscope. The biggest complaint seems to be that some folks have difficulty getting the clip off their pants. Personally, I'd rather fight to get it off at the end of a shift than have to worry about losing it.

In fact, as of today, 62 of 65 reviewers gave it either 4 or 5 stars.

I'd give it *6* if I could.

Come to think of it, this is my blog, so I can do whatever I want.