Really? Did you just?? Oh come on now… you don’t really think??
Did you really just call me an “Ambulance Driver”?
An Ambulance Driver? Oh come on… Four years of college level classes, hundreds upon hundreds of hours of continuing educations, a veritable alphabet soup of certification acronyms behind my name, and this nifty Star of Life disco ball patch on my arm and you STILL just called me an Ambulance Driver? Really? Oh come now, do you know that calling me an ambulance driver is like calling a High School Teacher a “Nanny”, or calling a Police Officer a “Police Car Driver” or calling a Nurse a “Bedpan Jockey”, or calling a Firefighter a “Fire Truck Driver”, or calling a scientist a “Microscope Looker-Inner” or calling a Congressman a “Pork spewing bloviator” (I could go on, but I won’t… although that last one might be right)
EMS is an acronym for “Emergency Medical Services”. EMT stands for “Emergency Medical Technician”. Nationally, there are three levels of EMS professionals. Each level signifies to the public that the person holding the Title and the requisite license or certification has met stringent educational and training standards that allow them to take care of people. These levels are EMT-Basic, EMT-Intermediate, and EMT-Paramedic. Some of the states have expanded on this by offering additional levels of certifications between the levels, such as the EMT-IV Tech in Wisconsin (an EMT-Basic that can start IVs and give some limited IV meds), or the EMT-Paramedic Specialist in Iowa that is above the NREMT-P a bit but still below their Critical Care paramedic.
A paramedic these days has a college level education, takes over 1000 hours of didactic (classroom) time and can spend anywhere from 6 months to a year in clinical rotations. We can poke, prod, cut, inject, bandage, stabilize, evacuate, and care for you sixteen ways from Sunday. In my ambulance I carry 48 different emergency medications that I have to know how to use REALLY well or I can kill you. (I do know how to use them really well, trust me, so do my peers). I can intubate your trachea so you can breathe, reinflate your collapsed lung with a needle, surgically open your airway if I need to in order to save your life, and do a whole host of other things that you wish that you never ever need. My ambulance is a critical care unit on wheels that can be at your curbside in under 8minutes flat twenty four hours a day seven days a week. Today’s ambulances bring the emergency room right to you and begin advanced medical care right away. This care saves lives and improves your medical outcome greatly for a whole host of medical complaints.
And you, Joe public, still call me an “Ambulance Driver”. Which, if you hadn’t noticed, somehow irks me a bit.
Unfortunately for me, and for the members of my profession, it’s not your fault that you call me that, dear Joe Public. It’s my fault. It’s the fault of each and every EMS professional out there that you know so little about our profession and our industry that you resort to calling us that detestable term. It is our responsibility to get the word out. It is our responsibility to educate you about our life saving services, and our responsibility to let you know just how and when to use us properly. If we don’t do it, and therefore let the responsibility fall to others, we EMS people aren’t going to be happy with the job they do. We’re not going to be happy with the popular representations of paramedics in the popular media. We’re not going to be happy with the results of our public health education campaigns.
The American Heart Association has recently released a campaign entitled “Mission: Lifeline”. It’s a marketing campaign aimed at increasing public awareness of heart attack symptoms so that Joe Public calls us first when they start having the big one. If you’ve been reading this, you know that my all time biggest pet-peeve is when the people having conditions where they need us and need us now but aren’t dramatic like a car accident or cardiac arrest don’t call us. I can’t make a direct quote, but I read a study once where like 60% of people call a friend or family member first when they think they’re having symptoms of a heart attack. Calling EMS for these 60% or so of potential patients whose lives may very well depend on the early interventions we can provide them seems to be an afterthought. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve transported from small hospitals to big hospitals that were having the big one and DROVE THEMSELVES INTO THE ER without calling us.
Please, Joe Public, know that the VERY FIRST CALL you should make when you have pains in your chest is 911. Do NOT hesitate. Do NOT worry about the cost. JUST CALL US!! Do you know that approximately 1% of cardiac muscle tissue DIES AND CANNOT BE SAVED per MINUTE in a bad heart attack (myocardial infarction)? The difference is simple. You call 911 and usually (depending on where you are located) an ambulance arrives within 10minutes and starts lifesaving interventions and gives you medications to help slow or stop the damage in progress and salvage heart tissue that is being damaged. Please remember that “Time is Muscle” and that the extra expense of an ambulance is more than covered by the quality of life that we’re keeping for you. Really. Please call. Don’t wait. You can call your family AFTER you call 911. Please, I’m begging.
I’m also telling you EMS people out there to get the word out. Go market yourselves! If you want people to know what we do, it is YOUR PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY to tell them. Go, do it now. If you want my help to write something, e-mail me and I’ll help. For free even. It’s that important.
Ambulance driver….. Seriously.