What Makes A Great Partner?

Everyone has their own idea of what makes a shift a good shift. Each of us carries our own magic recipe. Perhaps a little trauma with a dash of cardiac thrown in. Add a choice rig from the fleet and a dispatcher who still remembers the last burrito run you made for her. Sprinkle liberally with just the right amount of down time and voila!

Wait. We’re missing the most essential ingredient. A great shift can never be a great shift without a great partner. That’s the best thing about EMS, all the awesome characters you get to work along side. Some would say that when your mixing your recipe for a great shift, your partner isn’t the most important factor, it’s the only factor. I tend to agree.

Think about it. You could give me the worst shift schedule and the crummiest rig in the fleet. Make me run the worst calls that come. Hold me over late. But if you give me the right partner, we’re going to have some fun. There’s just no stopping us.

The inverse is true as well. Put me in the best medic unit on a prime shift. Dispatch me to the most cherry-picked calls and send me in early when I’m done. But if my partner’s some serious, stick-in-the-mud who couldn’t find fun if you stapled it to his forehead, guess what? It’s going to suck. There’s just no nice way to put it. The partner makes all the difference.

So I got to thinking … no really. What makes an awesome partner? Here’s my list.

You’ve got to be able to see the humor in things.

I don’t care if it’s the God awful smell of some patients 18 pet cats, a projectile vomiting patient or the fact that you’ve run twice as many calls as any other unit in the district. You’ve got to be able to look at it and laugh. This job has to many opportunities for laughter to be all serious about it.

You have to be able to tell a good story.

There’s going to be some down time. If you can’t get your nose out of the latest John Grisham book (Hint: it’s the same plot as the last one.) and tell some stories about your life, It’s going to be a long shift. Sure I like to read and I like to try to nap occasionally, but at some point you’ve got to be able to say something interesting.

Tell me something about your family, you life, your hobbies, a call you ran last week, anything. OK, not anything. Anything interesting. Due to the fact that we work in a very interesting field, I find most folks in EMS don’t struggle with this too much

You have to have my back.

 I’m can’t always be on top of everything. There’s a reason why they sent two of us out on the call. I need you to look out for me as much as I look out for you. We need to be able to team up on the big stuff like scene safety and quality patient care but I need you engaged in the little stuff too.

You may need to run interference with a disruptive family member or remind me what needs to be restocked after the call. Let me know if you think I’m off base on my assessment of the situation and don’t let me forget to go back in service with dispatch … they hate that.  You and me, we need to be a team.

You have to be willing to work hard.

I don’t want to feel like I’m carrying all the weight. Share the calls, share the lifting and share the responsibility. If I’m sweating, you should be sweating. If I’m cleaning, you should be helping me out. If I’m checking out every cabinet in the medic, you should be back there with me. I’ll do the same for you.

You have to love your job.

It’s OK to have your up days and your down days, but all-in-all, you need to love your job. There’s just no excuse to keep showing up to work every day not liking your job. I have no desire to sit around and whine about the latest policy change because there’s always a policy change. I don’t want to gripe about the people who call 911 for silly reasons. People always call 911 for silly reasons. I don’t want to bitch about all the stuff in our job that is unfair and unreasonable. Life’s too short.

I will work tirelessly to improve our working conditions and our system. But in my world, that means spending 3% of our time identifying the problems and 97% of the time solving them. You have used up your 3%. Let’s get to work. And let’s have some fun while we do it.

What do you think makes a great partner? Before you leave write a comment and tell me what’s on your list.

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  1. When I mess up, and I will mess up, correct me without making me look like an idiot.

    When I do the same to you, accept it!

  2. Steve Whitehead says:

    Good one Chris.

  3. This is a great list. I think we should work a couple of shifts together. I would add:

    A great partner …

    1) remembers that I have 2 small children and that they should not text and drive, cell phone and drive, radio and drive, map read and drive. I also welcome driving at or below the speed limit with careful braking and acceleration.

    2) is willing to listen to 1 hour of All Things Considered after I have spent 8 hours listening to Denis Miller, Rush, and Sean Hannity without sighing, snorting, or trying to explain the truth.

    3) does not use my coffee cup or water bottle as a spittoon.

  4. Cant add much more to your list other than,
    1) someone who knows not to keep asking if you are alright when you have had a bad job. If you know each other well you get to know the coping mechanisms of your mate. For me a quick check is good, a debrief between the two of us, time to reflect on how we did and if we could do anything better, then just knowing that your mate is their if you need him/her
    2) Ooohhh….someone who will buy you the mcdonalds breakfast whilst on standby when you have forgot to bring your money
    3) Someone who knows that when I ask for the board – it means board, collar, headblocks, and straps, not just the board!!
    4) Someone who isnt afraid to speak up if they have different ideas about the path that I am going down when assessing treating a patient. Two minds are always better than 1
    Great post!

  5. Anonymous says:

    This is so a nail hit on the head.
    Don’t ever ever talk interrupt me while I’m assessing a patient, ever. Patient person and radio, know your role. The only exception is danger to patient or us. Don’t talk! Oh I feel better, thanks for letting me vent.


  1. […] while back Steve Whitehead wrote a great post for the EMTSpot.com that explained five things that he felt made an ideal partner. This prompted me to ask,  […]