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.

  5. As much as it pains me to admit, I was this kid about 4 months ago. Without violating HIPPA but trying to give a clear picture of the situation, I was asked to help move a lady from her wheel chair to her car while I was at church, off duty. As I approach her, with 3 other people standing around her, she had that ‘no lights are on, so nobody is home’ look. Glassed over eyes, if you will. I checked Carotid and Radial pulses and felt nothing. And what did i do next…….? I froze. I completely forgot what I was supposed to do next. My EMT training and BLS training were nowhere to be found. Thankfully, an off duty nurse came out and I was at least competent enough to tell her that I felt no pulses, carotid or radial. After about 30 minutes (read as, 10 seconds, because it felt a lot longer), it finally kicked in and we did two rescuer CPR until the ambulances showed up 15 minutes later. Real time. After all of this, it has become my opinion that you truly become an EMT when you are off duty and react to an emergency just like you do when you are on duty. When your training is not just part of your knowledge base, but it is a part of who and what you are.

  6. I’m an EMT, on my way to becoming a paramedic and really have to say, that your story bothers me a bit. It takes credit away from the work we do on a daily basis. It undermines the quality of our EMT program standards that kid would have needed to wear that uniform in the first place. To partake in rides alongs, to have the privilege of trust in the times of need in your community. The people I have seen and worked with always have their heart in the right place, or they never last past the first 2 classes before going full time. To be able to commit yourself time and service to becoming a first responder is a giant life changing experience.
    If he passed his test, the passion and love which brought him all the way to that final exam onto ride alongs is NOT something you forget.
    Unless he suffered a major concussion from a 240, this isn’t possible.

    I seriously find this completely offense to make up. I’m not preaching you for your “artistic and eye-opening” view on a topic. It just proves to me that you, the author, are not committed to his love and devotion to his work as much as I am, and deep down has an insecurity about his life he scapegoats onto a fictional character, then defends said fictional character and THEN proclaims that said character is CAPABLE of being a future EMT???

    I’m sorry, but if you’ve got your arms severed needing immediate assistance on the side of the highway, and you see the doofus on the front page of the newspaper who couldn’t secure a simple what seemed to be cardiac arrest coming toward you, it isn’t going to send the feeling of “security” to you. And employers know that. The current state of our benefits and job availability is low enough. We’re practically commodities. We do it because we love it, to save people and be trusted with life, and to love life and to really have a passion love and understanding without expecting anything over middle class pay. Anything extra is a bonus.

    This isn’t the REAL WORLD. that kid is doomed to janitorial and ditch digging for the rest of his life. Because if there truly was someone so dumb in the world, they don’t deserve to clean and press the uniform. Or to even tie the shoes on our boots. I wouldn’t work with him. I don’t know a single EMT who would.

    And if I ever met you in real life, your over abundance of insecurities would cause me incredible discomfort.

  7. *Laces. We don’t have shoes on our boots.
    At least none I know about.

  8. Very interesting. Never heard of this happening before. I guess when you are off duty your mindset changes a bit, but damn. Looks like his EMT training has time off as well.

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