Stop Feeding the EMS Tee Trolls

If I took the time I spend perusing Facebook and spent it writing blog posts instead, I could probably fill more server space than I have available. I spend way too much time on the ‘net doing drive by posting on social media than I ever do posting here, and that’s a shame. I really should post here more often and I resolve to do just that, starting now.

And just what am I going to write about today you might ask?

Well, um… EMS stuff I see on Facebook… but today I have an important topic that needs to be addressed and the fact that it happens to be from the book of faces is just a coincidence.

There are a good number of people who claim to be EMS professionals who post on social media about themselves and our profession. I’m one of them, and a good number of the EMS people posting about EMS out there portray themselves and our profession in a positive light. However, if I wrote about the people who made us look like a bunch of blathering idiots, I’d probably never run out of topics. The EMS social media arena is sadly just chock full of people who misrepresent EMS to others in the field and to those who aren’t involved in our profession. It isn’t that they’re providing misinformation so much as they’re providing bad information which serves to tarnish our profession’s image or worse. There are Facebook groups where the creme has risen to the top (Here, Here, and Here for example) and there are others that I won’t link to because I don’t want to make that vein in my forehead throb any more than it already does.

As Kelly Grayson once said, there are a lot of people posting things out there that make us look like the “Low Information Voters of Healthcare” and I really wish they’d knock it off.

My beef du jour happens to be with a sponsored ad for an EMS-related T-shirt that popped up in my feed this morning. I’m not mad at the ad itself per se, but while the T-shirt it was selling is among the dumber things I’ve seen, I’m madder at the mentality it represents. While a small handful of these T-shirts are somewhat clever and even worthy of a chuckle, most of them are just reprehensible and speak towards the worst possible cliché representations of our profession. Taken lightly, these shirts and the thoughts they represent make us look like less-than professional people. Taken in context, they make us look like gibbering idiots.

Gibbering. Idiots.

Gibbering. Idiots.

Sure, we’re ambulance drivers! Tee Hee! We drive fast because ‘mergencies! Save Lives! Lights and Sirens and Diesel! Yay!

If you really want to wear an EMS related T-shirt that promotes our profession, could you at least wear one that doesn’t make us look like idiot ambulance drivers who couldn’t crack open a book if we wanted to due to our hands shaking from all of the adrenaline? Because that would be great.

Of course, this isn’t the worst of the shirts. There are plenty of others that are out there that are bad too. It’s an epidemic of dumb.

You’ve got your attempts at being risque:

Bad EMS T 1

Ha! Didn’t this line stop being funny some time in the 80s?

Your humorous references to torture:

Bad EMS T 2

Because I will let people suffer or die in order to get revenge on them for something they did while they were having their worst day… Not really though. Ha! Funny!

And then there’s this weird, windowless van kinda vibe:

Bad EMS T 4

Um, guys? Isn’t this a little…

Bad EMS T 5

No, seriously… Guys

Bad EMS T 6

Really? We’re gonna wear this? Who does that?


I’d say that these shirts are great for people who have been considering retaking the EMT class two more times because they’ve tried it the last three times it was offered and they think they might start studying this time and change the outcome maybe… but there are good people in circumstances like that and I don’t want to insult them.

Seriously… just say no. The web is getting full of crap like this from sites like TeeSpring put there by people who try very hard to make something loosely EMS-related so that they can part the worst whackers in our midst from some of their parent’s cash. Don’t buy them. Don’t feed the trolls. Don’t be that person.

Make yourself and our profession a little bit smarter by just saying “no.”


Looks like I wasn’t the only one incensed by this kinda stuff today, Sean Eddy has some great ideas as well




  • James Boyd

    In my 25 years in EMS I can thankfully say that I have never seen such Tee shirts worn in public. No EMS professional could wear these and not understand how they were damaging our profession as a whole.
    Rest assured that were I to see one, I would be questioning the wearer and encourage the rest of us to do the same.
    Public perception is as critical as our care these days. These represent a step backwards.
    As with your patient care, use your good judgement before making what you thought was a humorous purchase.

    • Joe Madrigal

      So do you think the guy sitting at the bar or out to dinner with his family and he has a “fire” shirt on or has a big Johnson fire dept shirt on his profession is being questioned? NO it’s not! Maybe he’s an idiot for wearing it but I don’t think it goes any further.

      Most of my family is law enforcement, do you ever see a law enforcement officer wearing any type of swag? Nope, because for the most part people hate cops but love firefighters.

      Most people don’t even know or care about what we do on the ambulance. My opinion is more people think of us a taxi’s then anything else. They have no idea what we do.

      80% of the population (of which you don’t serve anyway, because they have cars and insurance) don’t really have any idea.

    • Rebecca Riley

      I’m thoroughly creeped out. IfI saw someone wearing one of those, I’d find out who they are and make a phone call. That is so far off from professional. What you do off the clock affects perception of you as an individual and the profession as a whole.

  • Joe Madrigal

    Some people need to lighten up and get a life!
    The professionalism comes from how you treat your patient and act during your pt care. Not because of the tshirt your may or May not wear on your time off.

    Get a grip!!! As a combat veteran of 8 years and 20+ years in EMS. This medic and others like me have seen more in a month than you will see you whole career.

    Don’t take it to hard that 80-90% of your runs don’t even require EMS personnel. It’s the fetal minds who are worried about what someone might think of their tshirt. What kind of simple mind do you have?!? You think when the actual emergency happens that “whoever” your worries about is thinking about some stupid tee shirt they may or may not have seen?!?

    • Kurt

      First off, thanks for your service. We are indebted to you.
      However, I must disagree with your “get a grip” and “simple mind” comments. We are in need of professionalism, and advertising that we “get to see you naked” or that “no one can hear you scream” does nothing more than destroy any shred of hope of having the trust and respect of those who depend on us. We are in a position where we are searching for the civic respect of our communities. Now, understand that I am not talking about the respect in the “praise me, I am PARAGOD!” aspect, but rather being respected as being allowed to eat at the big kids of healthcare table. We have been and still work hard to achieve this, and I think that antics such as these t shirts do little to advance this.

      • 30 + years on the streets

      • Joe Madrigal

        In contrast to that statement, these tee shirts do nothing to hold back the advancement either.

        People aren’t wearing these to work.

        This would be the same analogy if you had anyone in the public wearing any type of branded material, IE: Nike, reebok, a fire shirt, a chiver shirt, ECV.

        Nobody pays that close of attention and then associates it to a profession.

        What holds back this industry in my opinion is the education and people. You get the younger people looking for a quick career as an EMT either on a ambulance or fire dept. Who’s spend a semester in the local CC and come out with the ability to care for you and your family. A physician has 12 years of school, a nurse usually 4 years of school. A medic at best has 2years of school.

    • Joe Paczkowski

      There’s a creepiness factor. Would you look at a trauma resuscitation the same way if the trauma surgeon had a shirt saying, “Firefighters may take the heat and EMTs may take your clothes off, but I get to fondle your butt.” Of course not, because it’s creepy and unprofessional.

      There’s a reason you never see this sort of crap coming from physicians.

      • Joe Madrigal

        Case and point to my title “some people need to lighten up.”

        Do you, or any of your partners, or have you seen ANYONE EVER wear one of these tee shirts while on duty? Or off duty for that matter?

        If you really want to advance this profession. Get involved with your LEMSA, try to change the standards of care we can give. Be a union rep., get into educating the public on what we do, get the national pay standards increased for this profession. Do anything but blame it on a tee shirt.

        • Joe Paczkowski

          Apparently someone is wearing them because people keep trying to sell them. I have to imagine if no one was buying them they’d be long gone by now.

          Am I blaming any of EMS’s problems on a t-shirt? No, not by a long shot. However if I saw a medic wearing one of those shirts, I’d have to question that medic’s judgement… the same if I saw a physician wearing a similar shirt.

    • Shaxspear

      Didn’t take long for the usual proverbial dick measuring post to come out. Thanks for your service, but you could use a healthy dose of professionalism. Of course people aren’t wearing this garbage at work but if they’re still wearing it in public, then it obviously identifies you as EMS. The shit is tacky, and isn’t funny.

    • Mark Tyson

      Oh your that guy who thinks he stands out above all others in our profession and feels he has “seen the shit” LOL. Your “combat vet” and “20+ years” in EMS make you very suspect simply by how you just presented yourself. How old are you? Its seems those who say they have seen more in a month then the rest of us will see in a whole career is the oldest worn out mantra of a guy who hasn’t actually seen more in a month then the rest of us in a career. Your lack of “professional” is obvious just by that statement, as In my 25 year actual career I have heard this cliche bullshit a hundred times. Let me guess you feel like your a tad bit higher on the EMS food chain then the rest of us poor gullible wannabes and it pisses you off we all dont know what you know…right?? Its your generation us old guys like to call “post 9-11 heroes” who feel the need to say such things. You sure I haven’t seen and done more then you? Walk real easy and hold with your hat in hand as you offend thousands who served before you and had long noble careers before you flipped on the lights for the first time. Such disrespect is mind boggling but sadly is now expected from your generation. I think these T-shirts are pathetic self serving, self promoting, unprofessional attention seeking profit scams just like this generation of vets who feels the world needs to know they served while they demand a “thank you” as they forgot about the millions of us who served before you. Those who actually do their job do not feel the need to self promote themselves and serve their communities humbly for the sake of serving. I have seen the change in attitudes over my LONG career as this younger generation needs validation for their “heroics” rather then those of us who punch the time clock, do our shift then go home without feeling the need for being placed on a pedestal. The one thing my beloved EMS lacks now days is those who forgot what civic duty and humble service means, these things ( T-Shirts) embarrass the rest of us who don’t feel the need for a spot light or to compete in a pissing contest. We also come from a generation who doesn’t need to claim they have PTSD for being exposed to uncomfortable things we knowingly signed up to be exposed to. This Profession has been disgraced and devalued by for-profit privatization and self serving submissive “shotgun” medics. Good luck with your stickers and T-shirts because the only ones your impressing is yourself while the rest of look like fools on your behalf. It is truly a sad day when a once honorable public service profession has turned into a pop-trend job, Please dont forget they’re our many of us out there who don’t think this is appropriate or cute and to my “old breed” brethren, you surely know what Im talking about. Yours truly Former Marine ’86’ and 25 year 911 Medic…..who “seen” a couple of things.

    • Jessica Krause

      I may take you seriously when you learn proper grammar and spelling. Until then, here’s a lesson:
      It’s either ‘Don’t take it TOO hard’ or ‘Don’t take it To HEART’ depending on what you were trying to say….
      It’s not ‘fetal mind’ it’s ‘feeble mind’ and
      ‘You’re worried not ‘your worries’
      If you are going to bash someone for their insistence on class and professionalism it helps to at least appear intelligent yourself

  • I’ve never understood this kind of shirts or the providers who wear them. I admit, I have a few ems related shirts I wear off duty or under my flight suit (which will before walking around clothes if I time out somewhere). But the ones I have generally are from places like AmericanMedicApparel and tend to be a bit more understated or at the very least non-controversial.
    Seriously, if we want respect from other healthcare providers, we need to end this crap. Get out of the public safety stuff like this (“but firefighters have worn stuff like this forever”) and emulate the other healthcare fields in how we are perceived on or off duty.

  • Rusty Lee

    Completely agree.

  • drkervorkianjr

    I spent 30 years as an EMT and I own a paddling shirt( did field testing for AED)plus a DNR t shirt worn only during drinking excursions at EMS conferences. Yup some of those shirts are dumb but what the heck it stimulates someone’s economy. But here in the big city we have folks we have all kinds of stupid t-shirts.

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