What Makes You An EMT?

This poor kid has been getting a lot of grief on social media.* Apparently he EMT-Holster---RSRB0056passed his EMT exams and he’s been doing a bunch of ride-alongs as well as collecting a pretty impressive vest full of radios, scissors and helpful EMT paraphernalia. When questioned, he reported that he primarily responded to calls on the engine. Those calls were trauma calls. He didn’t respond with the medic unit that handled the medical stuff. (Why would am EMT bother himself with such trivial matters.)

Then, standing in line for fast food, the woman in front of him collapsed unconscious. And he, dressed in full EMT regalia, called 911 and charged out front to flag down the police ad implore them to help the poor woman. He forgot that he was an EMT. Those weren’t my words. Those were his words. He said…he forgot that he was an EMT.

I think some of what we feel when we read this story is our own sense of recognition. Weren’t we all this kid at some point i our career? Full of more bravado than knowledge. Ready to use our tools but no idea how. All of us were this kid at some point in our training (to one degree or another). And all of us still fall short of our promise in some area of knowledge or skill.

I think he probably learned a lot that day. No, he might not have taken off his EMT action vest yet and he probably still really digs those trauma calls but what did he learn.

I would offer that he learned a valuable lesson about what it really means to be an EMT. The lesson here is that you don’t really become an EMT the day you pass your EMT class. You don’t become an EMT when the national registry mails you your card either.

Ride along time doesn’t make you an EMT.

Working alongside other people who know how to be an EMT doesn’t make you an EMT.

Trauma shears don’t make you an EMT.

Cool looking vests, hats, gloves, clamps and flashlights don’t make you an EMT.

Reading books doesn’t make you an EMT.

Having good stories doesn’t make you an EMT.

Belonging to the local rescue squad or ambulance service or fire service (paid or volunteer) doesn’t make you an EMT.

You are an EMT to the degree that you can perform the functions of the EMT skill-set. You aren’t defined by your certification. You are defined by your competence. You are an EMT in equal measure to your ability to intervene with right actions and perform as an EMT.

That’s it. There’s no short cut.

Someday…this kid might make a great EMT.medic coin

* The source for this story comes from a satirical blog. There is no other media reference to this story. It was a work of fiction.

The best satirical writing plays on our foolhardy sense of self righteousness. It’s amusing because it fictionalizes our own frustrations with the world. And we often rush to believe it because it tells a story that we already want to believe.

You see, I’ve always prided myself on having a pretty good sniffer for bull. I roll my eyes when yet another fictional story gets spread around social media. I ask myself, “Why can’t people take just a few extra minutes to confirm their source?”

This story fooled me for the same two reasons everyone gets fools by the current wave of satirical news. It fooled me because it played into my current world view and it fooled be because I was lazy and I didn’t double check my story befire I started spinning my tale.

I considered deleting this story and using a different foundation for my observation. But I’d rather leave it. Consider it a journalistic black-eye. A reminder to myself to be diligent when I quote sources to my readers. And a lesson in humility the next time one of my friends gets zinged by a good satirical yarn.


  1. That’s a public safety and EMS satire blog – there’s no real EMT. Still, there’s some good lessons to be had.

  2. Steve Whitehead says:

    Thanks Vince. I amended the story. You’re a peach.

  3. Lee A Thompson says:

    Experience makes you a good EMT. Support from your peers helps you gain that experience. I wish peers would remember that every opportunity is an opportunity to help train and mold the “new EMT”. We all have a beginning!!!

  4. Props for leaving it up. That’s owning your errors — and practicing what you preach. Well done.