EMS pilots can be on the job for 70 plus hours a week with only 10 hours of flying. Long periods of nothing in particular to do, but wait for a call can be stressful. There is the boredom of having many hours, without stimulation or challenge, and most likely having one’s mind on outside activities. While it may not be uncommon for corporate executives to spend as many hours involved with their jobs, there is on important difference: Executives are for the most part, actively engaged in constructive activity and receiving constant stimulation. The pilot, on the other hand, must make a swift transition from inactivity to the jarring experience of responding to the critical needs of a victim. Pilots can be tensed up enough that sleep is not really restful; this kind of anticipation has been likened to sleeping with one eye open.
Many new programs have not been too concerned with the issue of understaffing. In these times of inflation, it is easy to take the position: ‘If you’re not able to handle the job, we’ll find someone who can.’ Pilots need their jobs to take care of care of their families and meet financial obligations. This leaves them in a subservient position with essentially no bargaining power, and in the position of flying regardless of weather conditions. Most EMS pilots are contracted out to hospitals by a helicopter company. Many are in new air ambulance programs trying to prove themselves. These programs want to show their communities that they can save lives; this can put incredible pressures on the pilot to perform when a call comes in. Emotions and tension can run high with the pilot having little apparent authority to decline to fly, even if in his best judgment, conditions do not permit.
What’s it like in your world?