I wasn’t sure if the trip would be possible this year and trying to sleep on an airplane for the second time in 16 hours on the way home I almost regretted it.
EMS Day on the Hill was organized by our friends at the NAEMT and had an attendance this year of almost 200 EMTs, Paramedics, Chiefs, Managers and Medical Directors.
My first Washington DC visit began just before 11pm when I got on the plane in San Francisco with no bags, no change of clothes, just me and my coat, tie, iPad, phone and Random Ward’s camera.
A restless 4 hours of tossing and squirming in the fully sold out airplane led to a beautiful sunrise at 20,000 feet as we began to descend and everyone rubbed their eyes and readied for the day.
Just before 8 o’clock I made it to the Park Hotel and collected the packet from the NAEMT. Inside was my badge for the events and a number of pre-made folders to hand to lawmakers. Inside were info sheets on three important pieces of legislation we were presenting to the aides on our visits which had been prearranged based on our home state. After all, why would the Congressman from Maine care what a Paramedic from California thought?
Expectations? None. Like being dispatched to an “unknown problem” I would be relying on my brief research into etiquette and the tips mentioned in the packet to guide my actions. Luckily the California group was large enough to divide and conquer. Three of us set out on a schedule and the other 2 would cover the remaining appointments. 5 of us would handle 8 meetings and 2 photo ops.
We were not scheduled to meet any congressional leaders, but instead one of their aides. It would become clear how important they thought our meeting was based on the aide who was chosen to meet with us. For example, one lawmaker sent us their lead council, another their Healthcare expert while yet another had us meet in a hallway with whoever drew the short straw.
If you’ve ever worked a trade show or as a salesperson you understand how your presentation becomes more streamlined as you go and this is no different. as soon as you say goodbye and walk out a better phrase pops into your head or a different example becomes clearer.
My group included NAEMT Secretary Charlene Donahue and Dr Kevin Mackey, who serves rural and suburban areas of Northern California. He was very interested in my EMS 2.0 pin and is already curious enough about improving EMS to travel to other systems to learn more. More on that later.
Congress keeps their offices in a group of 3 large buildings interconnected by a series if tunnels and even an actual subway train in the basement.
Mixed in with we lobbyists were hundreds of young staffers running from office to office doing goodness only knows what. The cavernous hallways upstairs in the office area were full of folks running to 5-10 minute meetings with staffers who scrambled to find meeting space.
Downstairs in the basement moving between buildings is quite different. Cramped, slightly damp and shoulder to shoulder are all the same folks from upstairs looking for the cafeteria or restroom, but now you begin to see well dressed people moving with purpose in small packs. Each of them is wearing the Congressional Pin on their left lapel which denotes them as members of congress. Here in the basement, just walking around. I was constantly scanning the groups for any of the Californai law makers we were hoping to meet with, perhaps even walk with them and pass along our concerns. Alas, I never saw them in the basement, but each time we stopped into an office and looked at the live feed on TV we would see one of them speaking on a topic. It was surreal to look up at Rep Waxman on TV, then down at his office, then up at him, then down at his office and wonder how busy his day must be.
It is said that seeing laws made is much like seeing sausage made in that after seeing it one may not wish to partake in the experience of the final product. But seeing the sheer volume of topics presented by lobbyists just in the short time we were present, everything from coal to cancer, eyelashes to budget slashes, it can’t be easy to choose where to vote on some of these issues.
In coming posts I’ll describe the three pieces of legislation we were trumpeting, the names of the folks we met with and how the meetings went and a brief wrap up of how I think we can inform law makers better next year.