I troll the paramedic and ems tags here and I see a lot of posts by younger people who are thinking about or are going through paramedic school. I try not to be jaded, even though I know I am when it concerns EMS. It’s not that I want to scare people away from this profession, actually I want the opposite, it’s just that most of the people who make a big show of going into EMS (not just tumblr people, I mean in general) aren’t cut out for it.
This is a very specific job, though it has a huge range of responsibilities. It’s not a decision to be made on a whim. It’s not the job you want if you’re looking for glory or to be a hero. It’s hard. It’s heavy. Most of the time it’s thankless. There’s a huge risk of being sued by a patient. If something goes wrong your head will be the first on the chopping block. We get paid pennies next to people in the nursing field. It takes a very specific type of person to thrive in this field.
There’s a lot of room for error. Going through a class and getting a certification doesn’t mean you’ll always have the answers. You deal with every type of person you can imagine. Drunks, druggies, rich, racist, civilians, military, convicts, religious, atheist, LGBT, friends, family… You can’t let any of your feelings affect you on calls. You need to be able to shut that part of you off until you’ve transferred care. You can see the best in people but more often you’ll see the worst. You’ll transport a woman to her cancer treatment multiple times over a period of months and then suddenly you’ll never see her again. You’ll pick up drug addicts who call 6 times a month looking for a free ride to the hospital cafeteria. You’ll run lifting assistance calls. You’ll have to face the 90 year old wife of the man you failed to resusitate and ask her for a signature; constantly questioning yourself over what you could have done differently. You’ll put entire families in body bags and then cart the drunk who killed them to the ER knowing that he doesn’t have a scratch on him. You get to know these people by name and despite your best efforts their deaths will affect you.
You’ll screw up. Everyone does, our field is no different. But you’ll live with the fear that when you do it could kill someone.
We don’t get the glory that cops and firefighters get. A lot of people don’t really know what we do and you’ll find yourself trying to explain it to them. Your family most likely won’t understand what your going through.
Does any of that scare you? It should. Paramedics have the resources to do a great amount of healing but they can also cause a great amount of harm through negligence. So yes, that should scare you but that just means you’re sane.
Think about it. Does it still sound like an appealing career?
If you think you can handle all of that then you might be crazy enough to be a paramedic. And I know how all that sounds but there are positives. If it was 100% bad you wouldn’t have anyone in the field. But you can’t go half way. You need to be sure that this is what you want. And if it is; I promise you it will be the best damn job you’ll have have.