It took me a while to get to grips with break times in the ambulance service.
Basically, if the workload in the service allows it, Control will try and send you back to station for a rest-break. Now – we work twelve hour shifts and jobs are generally back to back so its fair to say we are busy enough throughout the day. That aside we manage to get the odd ten minute breather after each job at hospitals etc. And being busy means the day goes quicker – which everybody likes.
By not getting an “official” break we manage to finish half an hour earlier and get an extra £10 for our troubles. Most crews like this. Not so much for the money – that’s trivial – no, its the finishing early that counts. So, crews will prefer to work flat out for the whole day avoiding an official rest-break and then finish earlier . . . unless of course, your off-job involves something ridiculous – which it always does. And as has been mentioned before – its always a conspiracy! Staged by Control!!
There is a set time during the shift that you can have your rest-break and this is called the “break window”. Once you pass the break window (which is usually two and half hours before the end of shift) you can’t be put on rest-break and will then be finishing early.
Now, some crews will go to great lengths to avoid having a rest-break. Its almost like a personal challenge – with each shift finishing early becoming a tiny victory against oppression (or something). This can be seen by the outsider as childish in some ways – but rest assured, it is one of many essential processes for maintaining sanity in this job.
A classic way to avoid rest-breaks is to try and find a patient. This is the only time a crew will rush to pick up a drunk in the street or go steaming into a fight and help. With some it becomes obsessive. Sadly, some take it a little too far.
I heard of one crew who had been ordered back for a rest-break with ten minutes still to go in their break window. On their way back they decided to drive round a large roundabout over seventeen times until it was time to head back – perfectly timing it to arrive on station 2 minutes after break window. Unfortunately for them, Control had been watching their progress on the map (each truck is fitted with a tracking device) and were well aware of their plan.
So, upon arriving at station the phone started ringing. This would normally be Control saying the crew are officially on rest-break. The crew, ready to fight their corner and argue that they were out of the break window, answered the phone . . .
“Hello, Oval Station*?”
“Is that M202**?”
“Control here – you have a choice . . . you can accept your rest-break now, 3 minutes after the break window cut off, or, you can both be suspended for abusing Company time. Which would you like?”
Unsurprisingly, the crew took their break.
*Obviously not the real station for this case
**Crews have call signs. The letter distinguishes the station you work out of and the number represents the shift . . . M202 isn’t a shift that works out of Oval (I think) – I’ve made it up!