Dispatching for the FD used to be a relatively simple process for the ambulances. There were four ambulances, numbered 1-4. They were dispatched in order, usually. If ambulance 2 responded to the last call, 3 would be next. Fairly simple system, easy for ambulance staff to keep track of. You could guess whether you might have time to grab some food, perform larger maintenance tasks like changing the main O2 tank, getting fuel, or whether it was even worth trying to catch a few minutes of sleep. Those days are over.
Recently, we've changed to a GPS-based system. Each call is dispatched to the closest ambulance, or if all the ambulances are in quarters, to the ambulance which has been in service the longest. This seems a reasonable theory, reducing response times by sending the nearest ambulance, or the one who finished up the last call quickly. The problem is that this produces two escapes for ambulance crews who would rather not run calls. 1) Go to an out of the way location so you aren't closest to anything. 2) Wait as long as possible to put your truck back in-service. Both of these options shift extra calls onto other crews.
Now, we never know which call is going to be ours. Even if you hear the other calls, you would have to keep in mind where they were, if and where they transported to, and so on. What was an easily trackable system has changed to a big game of tag. You're "safe" while occupied on a call, but as soon as you tell dispatch you are available, you're "it" and trying to get from the hospital back to quarters without getting "tagged" for another call.
I go to work to do ambulance calls, so it would be rare to find me complaining about doing my job. But at 1700 for shift change, this entire dispatch system can make it very difficult to get out of work on time. The Asian and I got stuck the other night, one call at 1650, cleared the hospital at 1720, next call (when we were two blocks from the station) at 1730, cleared the hospital at 1800, next call (when we were 6 blocks from the station) at 1810, cleared at 1820 and made it back to the station at 1830 to get the evening crew on the truck. I can guarantee that our 1810 patient did not get the same caring ambulance crew that patients earlier in the day saw as we're fighting to make it home.