Country Mouse, City Mouse

Sheri Stigler

As a country gal who grew up in a very rural farming community in the heart of Wisconsin, I understand the charms and challenges of a less populated environment.

In our small city of about 2,500 residents, everyone knew everyone. It was a community where the single school, a few grocery stores, a bank, a funeral home, and a row of bars neatly lined the main drag. It was a safe town where my best friend, Ann, and I perched in the tree at the end of Main Street and rode our horses to pick up orders at the Dairy Queen drive-thru. Most of the kids in our class were farm kids who did chores and milked cows in the pre-dawn hours before school, rarely leaving time to shower. That was part of life, and it was the norm in our world. Our town didn’t look like much, but it was the heart and home of my childhood. The lessons I learned as a small-town kid continue to serve me well in a much more densely populated environment.

For those of you who are lucky enough to still live in rural places like this … be grateful. And for those of you who are now bigger-city dwellers, well, it might be time to work on making your agency just a little bit smaller for those who come to rely on your dispatch systems.

In this issue, Communication Manager Josh McFadden writes about rural EMS systems. As we consider how dispatch can positively impact the people they serve, I think it would benefit us, despite our demographics, to take a lesson from the rural mindset. Even in the largest and busiest centers, we can find a way to extend the “country-fied” homespun warmth and goodness that exists in all of us. The recipe isn’t hard to follow, and the results are spectacular. In fact, they’d probably win a first-place blue ribbon at the county fair.

Go out of your way

Leave callers with good impressions. Be kind. Be helpful. Go that extra mile to make someone’s bad day just a little brighter. Good old country etiquette means treating everyone like family.

Leave impatience at the barn door

We all have bad/crazy days. Whether we are in a busy multiagency consolidated center or the lone dispatcher at a rural department when something big happens and you are “it,” do the best you can. Working through the situation and use those good prioritization skills.

Plant well; reap a bountiful harvest

With the “power of the protocol” at your fingertips, you are armed with the very best instructions to help the caller. Response might take longer in a rural area, and urban dispatchers experience the same thing depending on resources and peak call times.

“Sit a spell …” Share your story with the locals

City and country dispatch mice can do this! Make sure your community understands what the profession is all about. Attend fairs and farmers markets, and take advantage of social media platforms. People who realize the importance of what you do will be your best allies when you need the resources to match the technology and demands. Advocate for yourself as well as for your department.

Stop and smell the roses (Not the cow poop …)

Celebrate those successes no matter the size of your agency or the communities you serve. Make your good news everyone’s business. Contact local media about the baby deliveries and cardiac saves (and that includes Josh at the IAED who welcomes and posts “Call of the Week” submissions).

Though we recognize that urban and rural centers have differences, they share the same goals. Applying the protocols effectively and developing that “servant centered” hometown hospitality should be our focus—whether our view contains skyscrapers, mountains, oceans, or farm fields. Country mouse or city mouse … we are all in this together … we are all family.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Sherri Stigler is the Training and Operations Manager for Waukesha County Communications, Wisconsin, USA, a combined dispatch center in southeastern Wisconsin, just west of Milwaukee, a land where the beer runs freely and locals proudly stack cheese on just about everything and call it great.

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