The call of the recliner

Paramedics tend to think of our job as being quite physical. It is, but maybe not in good ways.

This is my step counter, as recorded by my phone. I keep it running in the background and my phone is always on me. Wednesday to Saturday I was off duty. Sunday to Tuesday I was working on the ambulance. Notice the difference between the first four days and the last three?


That’s right – when I’m at work I spend a lot of time sitting around. It doesn’t always feel like that, because I feel like I’m spending the day out and about. But in reality, my movement is mostly from the branch recliner to the ambulance, into a scene, then to the hospital triage area. This adds up to surprisingly few steps.

On my days off I’m not climbing mountains – just walking down to the shops and to the kids’ school. But it adds up to an awful lot of incidental movement. Various authorities suggest we should be aiming for a minimum of 10,000 steps per day. When I’m at work, I’m lucky to get half that.

This lack of movement sets us up for other problems. Many of our cases require manual handling in awkward spaces or with uneven loads. Because we don’t move much on duty, we are stiff and cold when we perform these lifts. That’s a recipe for injury, despite the best lifting equipment in the world.

Sadly I don’t have a solution to this problem. Exercise equipment at branch? Culture change? Clean and jerking the monitor?

Possibly all of these things. But it starts with an awareness of our current situation.

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