Archive for November, 2014

Tips for becoming a female paramedic

I was recently asked anonymously if I had any tips on a female aspiring to being a paramedic. I had finished this post yesterday. I had a list of items with the most important at the end. It looked nice.

I always finish a post and leave it for a while. I come back and read it later, out loud, and if I still like it I post it. I never love my posts. I’m my biggest critic.

I realized something when I read my first draft of the post. It was completely wrong.

I was writing to a female trying to be a paramedic and I somehow thought there was a difference between what a female and a male needs to be a paramedic and that was a completely wrong idea or set of ideas. Tips for being a good paramedic don’t get divided between male and female. They are the same sets.

Let me expain:
1. You can’t lift too much weight? Grow muscle. Learn good techniques. Use and understand your equipment. I always tell people if you can’t move a patient onto your stretcher you are not going to get the patient to definitive care. That is our goal. You and your partner should be able to move a 250 to 300 pound patient via draw sheet onto a stretcher. Understand you are not lifting the patient, you are dragging them with a draw sheet onto your stretcher. If you can’t you need to work on developing muscle to be able to do it. There are obviously limits, if you are near your limits call for backup. Get FD involved, PD, family.
2. Learn everything. You are going to be a paramedic and that means you will be leading patient care. You will make mistakes, learn from them. Starting out learn your sciences, learn anatomy and physiology. These things will come in handy when you start developing your advanced care. You will not know some of the things you encounter, learn them. Don’t know a medication? Guess what, learn it. Protocols. You better learn them. There is a catch 22 to this, you can never know everything. If you ever think you do, if you ever think you don’t need that extra class or that refresher your company is giving stop yourself, examine what you are saying. Know right then and there that you are wrong and go learn.
3. Rookies take some heat, but don’t take more than your fair share. There is a big difference between initiation into a group and hazing.
4. Practice being in command. This one is hard and I have written on it before. Initially it will be hard to walk into an emergency and look like if you are in control, fact is you will be. Depending on the system you work with once you’re a paramedic you might or might not have a long orientation. You won’t feel like if you have what it takes to lead the patient’s treatment as a new paramedic, especially if that treatment is invasive and extreme. You are training to be a paramedic though, you are that person. Fake it until you make it. You don’t want to sound hesitant if someone’s life is in your hands and their whole family is watching you. Take control, follow your protocols (you see you need to know them) follow through and move. Don’t be bulldozed into inaction. You will pay for it at the ER and your patient may pay for your indecisiveness.

I will finish with a story. When I was going through my paramedic schooling there was a student who was very short and thin. She was a hundred pounds if she was wearing a parka in winter and fully wet. One day she couldn’t lift the stretcher with a student on it. She was too short and her legs were too weak. The instructor berated her for it. Badly. Another day there was an accident and a student suffered a toe injury. Being gun ho medic students we treated on scene. The blood almost made her pass out. Again she became the butt of many jokes. What kind of a medic can’t handle blood? Can’t lift a stretcher? She was not cut out for this field.

She kept at it. She worked hard. She fought through. Dedication is part stubbornness after all. She became a paramedic, she continued her education and got her critical care and FPC. She continued her education and I bumped into her much later, many years later, flying as a critical care nurse with a children’s facility.

You want this? You want to be a paramedic? Learn what it’s going to be, learn what you need, train for it. Then go out and get it, doesn’t matter if you’re a male or female.


Is ems worth it?

I was recently asked anonymously if I thought EMS as a career was worth it. I began to think about it. How to answer this question?

The truth of the matter is that the answer will be different for everyone. There will be some bad. Do not expect to get out on time, for example. Other jobs talk about the long hours, EMS relishes in making people get out of work late. You have plans right after a 12 hour shift? Here’s a cardiac arrest 20 minutes out of your area. There’s a concert or event you want to go to, you’re on shift. Accept this and you will be much happier, I still haven’t been able to do this.

There will be boring, regular calls. These can tire you out more than the real ones. Don’t let them get to you.

Sometimes we are not recognized for what we do. Belittled and called drivers. Us in EMS don’t do the job for the glory. At least not those of us who have been in it for a long time.

I have described EMS and a career in EMS like a marriage. Initially you are enraptured and in awe. You love all aspects of the job. You find little things that are annoying but you find them endearing. You’re tired, half lost as you learn the ropes, but you are happy. This is the honeymoon phase. This will end.

Next you start to feel the repetition wearing you down. You start to hate aspects of the job. The drunks, the regulars, the transfers, THE PAY. Some people stall out here. Some stay in this phase and don’t leave it or the field. The honeymoon is over. This is where some burn out. Their drive to learn is gone. They stop believing EMS does much good. They become paycheck medics. Most negative comments (pure negative) come from this group. Some can never get through this stage.

Then some grow past. These medics can see the faults in EMS but have learned to understand them. Like a long marriage you understand there is no perfection. There are things you don’t like but you stand them because you love the field.

There are going to be times you hate EMS and that hate can spill over onto people because of what you are going to see them do to each other. There will be greatness. There will be moments when you can’t see yourself doing anything else.

Is it worth it?

I can answer for myself and in my situation I can answer with a resounding yes. Will it be worth it for you? I think that at the minimum you will learn a lot, the rest you will have to answer for yourself.