What if I told you that you could adopt one simple, yet powerful belief that would improve your happiness at work immediately and forever? What if I could tell you one simple truth and, if you were willing to accept it, you would feel less stress and bring more joy and well being to your job starting right now? Would you be interested? Read on.
Carl Jung was the first psychologist to put fourth the theory of the collective unconscious. He recognized that an individuals behavior was driven, not only by their personality, but by the myths, ideas and beliefs held collectively by their culture.
It’s worth recognizing that when you came to emergency services you arrived with some of these beliefs.
You had an idea in your head of what an EMT, a paramedic or a fireman was. It’s probable that your beliefs were based more in the myths of the collective culture than reality, but the industry could take some blame as well.
We did nothing in your training to convince you that your job would be anything different than what you had seen on TV and in the movies. We may have even used some of these images in your recruitment process.
If you endured a fire academy you were taught each day about structures on fire and victims that needed to be dragged to safety and turned over to imaginary medical personnel. In EMT class you spent each day learning about the various medical emergencies that befall humans. From aneurysms to zygomatic fractures and everything in between, we drilled you on how to recognize those sick patients and how to intervene appropriately. And you learned. You diligently studied for the day when you would be the one responsible for caring for the sick and bringing calm to the chaos.
But the instructors didn’t say much about headaches. Blinding migraine headaches that make the patient so photophobic they can’t see to drive their car. They didn’t talk about stubbed toes either. They didn’t mention that many of the patients would be depressed, abused, addicted and homeless. Nothing was said to prepare you to kneel before drunks and criminals and people with mental imbalances, social dysfunctions and minor yet overwhelming needs that have nothing to do with your training.
In all your training nobody prepared you for emergency services. We may never have even mentioned that emergency services has much less to do with the real, life threatening emergencies than the collective myths told you. Instead, it has everything to do with caring for people and their problems. Welcome to EMS.
But here’s the kicker … none of this is a bad thing.
I’m going to ask you to let go of the myth of the collective consciousness. I’m going to ask you to make peace with your disillusionment and recognize that EMS is something entirely different from what you once wanted it to be. Once you do, you can begin to recognize that it might just be something much better.
Here is the one belief that will change your job satisfaction immediately:
Patients Define Their Emergencies
That’s it. You don’t get to decide what is or is not an emergency in the patients mind. There is no single collective understanding of what does and does not warrant a 911 call. The system is available to everybody. People with good judgment have access to 911 and so do people with bad judgment. The people who manage their life crisis well can call and so can the people who don’t. The systems greatest strength is also its greatest weakness. Our service is available to everyone … all the time … period.
It stands to reason that the people with bad judgment, who don’t manage their lives well, will call far more often and with far greater frequency than their more responsible social counterparts. Once we let go of trying to define their emergencies for them, we can make peace with that and get on with serving the patient.
As long as we remain attached to the idea that our job is to manage our predefined, true medical emergencies and everything else is an inappropriate distraction, we will never find fulfillment in EMS work. We will simply drive from one frustrating encounter to another, disgruntled, hoping for some genuine crisis so we can go home feeling a greater sense of self worth.
When we let go of this immature view of EMS we can let go of all that angry baggage. We can decide to let the patient define what constitutes an emergency and help them resolve it. Suddenly minor calls aren’t abuses or resource wasters, they are simply problems that are well within our capacity to solve. We see that peoples emergencies will span a vast spectrum of our abilities. Some will challenge us greatly. Many will be well within our ability to resolve. That’s OK, it means were doing our job well.
Yes, some people will abuse our service. This proves our greatness. Our service is available to everyone in
our community, every moment of every day. We don’t turn anyone away. Not because we can’t, or out of fear of liability, but because it’s not who we are. Filtering who is and is not worthy of our service is not what EMS was meant to be about. You work in EMS to serve human beings. The good ones and the bad ones and the nice ones and the smelly ones and the drunk ones and the violent ones. Everyone.
A big part of growing up in EMS is recognizing the power of serving others. Part of that is letting them define their own emergencies.
Welcome to EMS.
I’d like to hear what you think about that. Feel free to leave me a comment below.