SUSAN often reaches the end of her shift so tired she cannot string a sentence together or think straight.
If she were a florist or cleaner, it might not matter so much but she is an Ambulance Victoria paramedic and her job is to save lives in an emergency.
Susan (not her real name) spoke to the Weekly on the condition of anonymity.
A paramedic for more than 15 years, she confirmed the substance of a leaked Ambulance Victoria report from 2009 showing some paramedics were working more than 80 hours a week and were so tired they might as well have been drunk.
She said paramedics were rostered to work two 10-hour day shifts, followed by a 12-hour afternoon shift followed by a 14-hour night shift, followed by four days off.
"It doesn't matter if it's five minutes before your shift ends, if you're still on the road the dispatchers see you as fair game.
''They're under pressure too. They have to dispatch someone to an emergency within 90 seconds or they're in trouble.
''You get to half an hour before your shift ends and you're on tenterhooks waiting for the call that's going to take you another two or three hours.
''At 9am I hear crews who were supposed to have finished at 7am saying they want to be taken out of service after 16 hours on the road.
"The only way they can do that is put a code zero restriction on you, which means you will only be called to the most serious emergencies, but of course they can take the longest."
As a reservist paramedic, Susan is based all over the eastern and south-eastern suburbs, anywhere from Wantirna South to Cranbourne.
She believes the situation has reached breaking point. "We've been losing a lot of our older staff, older guys who've just said, 'It's killing me. I need to step away and turn back into a human'."
As a mother of two young children, she relies on "a very understanding family". "Sometimes I have to jump up and down and say I have to pick up the kids from after-school care by 6pm - but you're made to feel you're being unreasonable doing that."
She said paramedics were often dispatched for non-emergency duties, such as picking up people to take them in for CT scans."
Asked if she had made any bad mistakes as a result of fatigue, Susan said, "Not so far, but you do have that fear. Adrenalin is an awful stresser."
The Ambulance Employees Association says Victoria's 2500 paramedics are the lowest paid in the country. The union has called for an 18per cent pay rise in the first year of their new enterprise bargaining agreement to bring wages in line with South Australia and the ACT.
Ambulance Victoria's Garry Cook said the organisation looked forward to working with the union to achieve "a satisfactory outcome" in the new EBA.