My height: 5 feet 1 inch…just brushing 155cms.
Not surprisingly, “You’re too little!” is a comment I hear a lot in my profession (not to mention all my life). I once let an elderly lady (who weighed all of 100lbs) give my bicep a squeeze to gain her confidence before picking her up. I’ve always felt that an extra three or four inches and my life may have taken a completely different direction.
However, I have four years of combined first responder work that states otherwise. In that time, I’ve had to do a lot of learning and find strategies that can compensate for my vertical challenges. The only thing in EMS designed for short people is the size of our work-space (back of the ambulance). I’d like to share a few ideas so other wee ones don’t have to keep reinventing the wheel.
The obvious advice of course is: keep up your strength, eat properly, workout, stretch, get enough sleep, know your limitations, and don’t be shy to ask for help. Ok now that that is out of the way, here are some nitty-gritties.
1. If You Wish You Were Wearing Platforms…
The loading height of the stretcher was not designed for short people. Sometimes, especially with the heavier end of the patient spectrum, once I’ve squatted and lifted (properly) the stretcher is only part way up. What to do then? Bicep curl? Even if I wanted to….no. Before I learned this trick I would sometimes rise up on my tippy toes to get extra lift. This is bad. You are way less stable and just….don’t.
My shupervisor (aka short supervisor 😉 ) gave me this great strategy: Lift in two phases. Lift as high as you can properly for the first lift. For the second phase, break down the back of the stretcher* half way and finish the lift. It works like magic! (*Only some stretchers such as our Inferno model offer this position).
Phase 1: Lift in regular position
Phase 2: Break down back of stretcher half way and lift again
2. Loading Issues
Sometimes depending on the way the ambulance is parked the top wheels of the stretcher are not actually touching the deck at full loading height. In order to load the stretcher the bottom wheels actually have to be lifted off the ground before the under carriage can be released and moved into loading position. For short people this is a problem. Again we find ourselves stuck in the position of having to bicep curl the entire contraption (patient included). The solution to this is simple- lower the stretcher one notch below loading height. This may involve lifting the front wheels slightly to get it onto the deck. From there, business as usual.
This next suggestion is more for your patient’s benefit. I was trying to avoid subjecting you to any more of my “Paint” animations but it seems the best way to get the point across. If there are stairs and you are the short medic, take the top position. Yes, this is the “heavier” end but trust me here, it’s easier on everyone.
Worth a thousand words I think.
4. Facing Your Limitations
I know I mentioned limitations early but sometimes knowing and facing them can be two different things. When I first started working I wanted to prove myself to everybody. I didn’t want to be seen as a “burden” because of my stature even though some things were obviously more challenging for me (no matter how much iron I pumped). Colleagues (other medics, firefighters) would offer to give me a hand and it stung because it felt like they weren’t confident in my capabilities. Turns out a helping hand is usually just that- a helping hand. Now if someone offers to help I take it because ultimately it’s less stress on my body and we all know that makes for a longer career. Most of the time there are no extra hands available so it’s kind of like a treat! If you still feel embarrassed about it, ask the assistant to take one side of the stretcher, that way you are still contributing and nobody has to shoulder the weight 100%.
Hope that helps you out a little 😉
If you have any other suggestions I’d love to hear them! Leave them in the comments!
“It’s not the size of the man in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the man.”- adaptation of Mark Twain