Professing EMS

Some time ago I was working a shift in a clinic on a particularly busy day when I had a few moments to sit down, have a cup of coffee, and talk with my coworkers. It was the usual stuff, talk about the day, tidbits about personal lives, and since most of the people I was working with were women, talk about things that I didn’t really need to hear about. After a few minutes we all had to get back up and head back onto the floor to keep up with the constant tide of flu-season sniffles.

It was all pretty mundane for me until the doc that we were working with who hadn’t been there much before, made a statement. As we were walking out, he said “Man, I really hate this! This isn’t my love, it’s not my passion!” I was taken aback. I asked him what he meant. He went on to say that he really wanted to be a concert pianist and that he only did medicine now because he didn’t know how to do anything else.

Now, I’m not you… but even though this guy was a pretty good Doctor, I immediately felt sorry for all of the patients that day. I mean, would you want this guy to be your doctor? Who in their right mind would want someone who hated taking care of you taking care of you?

It did, however, get me to thinking… Is that where we are in EMS today? I mean our profession. The profession of EMS, our careers and our industry. Are we made up of people like this doctor? Now during the day that I worked with him, he never made any egregious errors in patient care, nor did I see him do anything illegal, immoral, or fattening. However, if providers aren’t *in* to providing to care, would you want to have them providing care to you or your family? What about your service? Sure, we all know providers who love EMS, love their patients, and can’t wait to take care of any patient that calls for their help, but while I would hope that they are the majority… are they?

EMS is a profession in its infancy, we’ve only been around since sideburns were popular, but in that time we’ve gone from dedicated but untrained people rocketing around in hearses to professional providers practicing curbside critical care. It’s a great profession to be in and I’m proud to be a part of it. As a group we’re a pretty dynamic fast paced lot. I would like to ask our group though, do we have the love of providing care to the breadth of society who call us when they think that the life or health of their themselves or their loved ones are in danger? Or have we fallen short of the lofty goals set forth by Johnny and Roy?

Yep, I’m asking a lot of questions here. I just would like to open up a dialogue among the EMS professionals out there. Ask yourselves if the EMS providers in your area are advancing the profession of EMS to the place where you think it should be heading. Ask yourselves if you work with people who have the love of the profession enough so that if they were strangers and you were a patient would you want them making decisions about your life? I think that it’s high time that EMS is taken over by EMS professionals who care about advancing our profession into the future, not by people who don’t care enough to understand the vast array of issues that face our industry today. I would like EMS people to take ownership and drive our industry where we believe it should go. It’s our profession, and our responsibility to strengthen our service to meet the challenges that are facing our communities. And that responsibility starts with you, the individual EMS provider.

You, as a caring EMS professional actually have the tools to do this. First off, realize that EMS is a profession all its own, truly a dynamic industry that has earned a place in the very fabric of country. Think about it, our generation and the generations to come have grown up with the notion of 911. They know that when the unthinkable happens, all they have to do is call the magic three numbers and someone will come and help them. It’s a powerful piece of the American psyche that people rarely give second thought to… but they all know what they’re going to do the next time they find Grandpa unresponsive. I think that if EMS ceased to exist (and contrary to what it may look like from the dashboard of your ambulance some days, it’s not all that likely) our society would look a lot different than it does now. People need to have the notion of EMS. And make no mistake, we’re darn privileged to have the role in society that we do. It is, however, up to us to awaken the public to what it is that we do, to educate ourselves to our own potential, and to show the medical establishment what we’re capable of. Ask yourself, really ask, if you want some other group to decide where we’re going for us, oh… say like the nurses’ lobby, or the IAFF, or the DOT, or the (insert non-EMS acronym here). You are sitting right now in an industry on the cusp of a watershed change, and it’s up to you to take ownership and steer EMS where you want it to go.

Here’s what I’m doing, and what I would like to suggest to you all. First, recognize that EMS is indeed a profession; and a good one at that. Second, evangelize EMS to all you meet. You can’t complain about the system abusers (or worse, the people who truly need us and yet don’t call us) if you aren’t out there educating them about what we’re here for. Third, realize that “PR Saves lives” and make sure that the information out there about EMS in your community is projecting the message that you think it should, and if it isn’t, write something up and get the word out to change that. Talk with everyone you can and let them know just what it is that we do, who we are, and what we’re capable of. Take ownership of EMS, because if we don’t, someone else out there will.

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