In my decade or so working in EMS, I’ve had the chance to ply my paramedic skills in more places than the back of an ambulance. I’ve been employed as an ER technician, which is of course the usual suspect for a paramedic looking to move their career options from more than just “The back of the truck” and “the front of the truck”, I’ve been employed as a security guard *slash* paramedic for a hospital chain that ran an ambulance service using their security department, and I’ve worked as a paramedic in an urgent care clinic. I think that EMTs and paramedics can and should expand their career options and that to do so, we’ve got to take a few collective steps.
The professional knowledge, skills, and abilities held by a paramedic combined with the unique personal characteristics of successful EMS people makes our profession a valuable resource to a wide variety of potential employers. These employers, beyond the traditional ambulance services, fire departments, and emergency healthcare providers, stand to benefit greatly from opening their hiring processes to paramedics, as does our profession and the general public. Imagine one day that you’ll type in the word “Paramedic” into your favorite job search engine and have more options available to you than you’ve ever thought possible. Imagine that one day when you’ve progressed to a point in your career where the prospect of getting up at all hours of the day and night no longer sounds like a good idea you would be able to get a job that is a better fit to your personality and your unique set of side skills. I say that our ability to improvise, to think quickly on our feet, and to make solid decisions based upon our knowledge base and experiences in the face of limited and evolving information are useful to business in this day and age.
At the urgent care clinic where I worked, there rarely was a call for my advanced life support skills. Rather we had the run-of-the mill cases that would come into the clinic for immediate-access primary care. My skills at patient history-taking, assessment, triage, and bandaging got a work-out. So did my skills in relating to patients on a personal level and interfacing with patients and their families across the demographic spectrum. I also learned how to prepare, acquire, and process various laboratory tests including point-of-care testing for common conditions and how to properly obtain and prepare samples for advanced labs. Surprisingly perhaps, I got a great deal more practice drawing-up, mixing, and administering medications more so than I ever have in the field. Working with the doctors greatly improved my skills as a diagnostician and has helped me immeasurably in my ambulance practice. (Yes, I said “my ambulance practice”) I highly recommend for both Urgent Care Clinics as well as for paramedics to explore this wonderful partnership.
What that experience taught me is that I could “fit” into that job description as a paramedic, it also taught me that there was a learning curve in moving out of the ambulance arena and into a clinical one. In my secret squirrel job that I don’t put out here on the blog, I use my healthcare background as a statistician and data management guru of sorts to help make decisions for a large organization assisting a lot of smaller ones and dealing with a lot of people. There was a learning curve there too, but my experience as a paramedic with knowledge of the real-world of healthcare makes a huge difference and brings a lot to the table. Nurses have expanded into this role for quite a while, and a lot of organizations from Education to Public health employ nurses in a lot of capacities apart from their traditional role as a bedside caregiver. Paramedics and EMTs can and should do this as well.
Previously, I had envisioned a certification as a “Clinical Paramedic” to provide paramedics with the knowledge and skills required to function in a physician’s office setting. I still believe that having additional certifications that build upon our initial licensure and education is the way to go. Imagine that once you attain your initial paramedic education there would be multiple educational options for you to choose from that would lead to a wide variety of career paths. You could be a “Public Health” paramedic working in the inner city to improve health standards and access to care, you could be a “Clinical Paramedic” staffing a clinic, working in primary or specialty healthcare, or you could be some type of “Specialty Paramedic” working perhaps as a liaison with children with special healthcare needs for a community organization. The possibilities are literally endless if we dare to explore our options and trumpet our strengths as a profession to the masses.
In order to do this, we’ll have to fall back on the “We Need More Education” answer as well as exploring how our licensing bodies will have to modify our legal scope of practice to allow us to function in these roles. I’m afraid that we’ll have to fight to “own” our licenses like the nurses do (and AmboDriver, you could weigh in on this) but the fight will be worth it.
I’d love to hear from my readers about how they apply their EMS skills in a manner outside of our traditional role. This is a subject area where I believe our brethren in the volunteer part of our industry can assist us greatly in explaining how their EMS training helps them in their primary occupation. If you are an EMT, Paramedic, jump in and help move us forward. What would do as a medic and what would you like to be doing tomorrow?