I was recently asked by a reader to explain why I work in EMS. It’s a compelling question. Sometimes, browsing through the blogsphere, you can feel like you’re inundated with content explaining why you shouldn’t work in EMS.
It’s strange. In a line of work as interesting, diverse and unique as ours, you’d think our blogs would read like a fan page for a band called EMS, but that’s just not the case. How to survive in EMS, how to scrape by and how to “fix” EMS seem to be the relevant topics of the day. I thought this readers question was a great opportunity to go on the record and say that there are a lot of good reasons to work in EMS. Here are ten.
I’ve learned that I don’t do well with routine. I couldn’t spend my work life in a cubicle. I’d rather chew tinfoil than show up each day and do the same thing. EMS is infinitely variable. Just when you think you’ve seen it all someone will pick up the phone, dial 911 and prove you wrong.
Unlike so many jobs and careers, medicine is profoundly human. We interact with people and see the full spectrum of the human condition. Few people clean the house or put on their Sunday best before they dial 911. We see a very real slice of humanity in EMS. Being a patient is a, “come as you are.” experience.
I mean, it’s everywhere. You can go anywhere on the planet and practice medicine. The opportunities are truly endless. I practice EMS in a major urban center but I’ve also practiced it in the middle of the Mojave Desert. Early next year I’ll go out into the jungles of northern Panama and practice EMS there too. I mean really, it’s huge.
You will never master emergency medicine. The vast well of knowledge that is medicine grows far faster than you can learn and absorb it. You can dedicate a lifetime to the understanding of this one small facet of medicine and you’ll still only scratch the surface.
The people are fun and the work is fun. This can actually take some folks a long time to learn. We get so caught up in the seriousness of EMS that we don’t really enjoy the process of running calls together. One of the benefits to sticking with the job long enough to achieve a level of comfortable competence is that you can really start to relax and have fun.
Two weeks ago, I spent two full days riding a bike around a senior PGA tour event. I was on the medical response team. Last week I was backstage at the Iron Maiden concert. I was on fire watch duty. After 20 years in EMS the job is still filled with first time experiences. I’ve lost count of the seemingly endless parade of lifetime firsts that I’ve logged on the job.
People always had medical emergencies and people will always have medical emergencies. When they do, they’re going to want someone like you around. That’s kinda nice when you think about it.
I don’t get people who don’t feel fulfilled in this line of work. Well, OK, maybe I do get them. So let me clarify. If you do your job to gratify yourself and your ego, EMS isn’t very fulfilling. If you do your job to be of service to others, EMS is very fulfilling.
Sure most everyone’s job matters. But some folks have to reach farther than others to explain how their job matters to others and to their community. In EMS it reaches out and smacks you in the face. To every single person who calls for your service you matter. The job you do, the service you provide and how well you provide it all matter.
This job gives us a unique and privileged perspective on the human condition. One that is hard for people in other lines of work to understand. You just can’t do CPR on someone’s husband and then go home and be angry about the coffee stain on your rug. You can’t take someone’s child to the emergency room for a rare respiratory condition and then go home and yell at your kid for not cleaning his room.
EMS gives us an amazing perspective on what’s really important in life. It’s a perspective that few people have. It’s a perspective that’s reserved for those who experience great tragedy and those who help. We get the perspective without the grief. It’s a gift. It’s a gift than many EMS caregivers leave unopened. That’s a shame.
If you need any evidence of the unopened gifts, just take a look around the EMS blogsphere.
Now it’s your turn: Why do you work in EMS? Leave us a comment and let everyone know.
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