Thinking About Becoming a Paramedic: Things to Keep in Mind
Paramedics seem to have the coolest job for many people, they drive fast and save lives, they see things that would turn most peoples stomachs and can frighten small children, and people look to them for help. While these thing are true to some degree, there is more than that to being a paramedic. Much of which can cause burnout and an unsuccessful career as a paramedic with the wrong mindset.
If you are considering a job as a Paramedic, you should know several things getting into it that may help you to succeed in your job.
- More often than not the calls that paramedics go on will not get the adrenaline going
- People are not as educated about medical emergencies as they should be
- The road is a dangerous place
- People have vastly different views on what is and what is not an emergency.
Many emergency calls are medical in nature, i.e. someone passed-out and is awake when the medics get there, a person is having some confusion, someone is experiencing some chest pain, and so on. Though these are emergencies that provide the paramedic with an opportunity to aid someone in need, and can be very exciting at times, they easily become routine to a seasoned paramedic. When entering the field of prehospital emergency medicine it is a good idea for the future paramedic to remember that not all emergency well be exciting and that they should find joy in helping people with even the smallest of complaints. Much of a medic's job will feel a lot like a taxi service, or an aid station that deals with minor complaints. Knowing that there will be days and even weeks that may go by between the really exciting calls can help make your paramedic career last.
EMS has not done a very good job of educating the public about how to respond to medical emergencies. Many bystanders will do things that may not be helpful due to a lack of education and a desire to aid the person in need. I have seen people performing CPR on a person who had passed out but was breathing and had a strong pulse. Things like this are very frustrating for the educated medic who knows what needs to happen to help the person in need. Instead of complaining about these incidents it may be better to view them as teaching moments and explain to the "good samaritan" what they should have done instead, in a constructive way as the situation will allow. Any education in first aid that a paramedic can provide to the public will be helpful in providing rapid effective care to those in need and may limit the amount of non-emergency calls that are placed each day to the 911 system. Understanding that educating people about first aid is a part of the paramedics job can make these situations less frustrating and also help to prevent then from happening in the future.
Driving lights and sirens, going through red lights, and passing traffic in the oncoming lanes is very exciting when a person first get into EMS, however it is important that the new EMT or paramedic know that many people respond poorly to the presence of emergency vehicles on the road and some people will even drive like they are not there at all. Emergence driving should be covered in any EMS class and on the job but I want to advise anyone considering this field that many accident are caused by emergency driving. Breaching intersections in an ambulance is one of, if not the most, deadly aspects of being a paramedic or EMT. The dangers of emergency driving can be reduced by always watching other drivers and stopping at every intersection to insure that the other vehicles come to a complete stop before proceeding. Even so, accident will still happen, some drivers see the ambulance and stop hard while the person behind them did not see it and rear-end the car that stopped. Drivers may also just pull into another lane without looking after noticing the ambulance behind them, and hit another vehicle. For these reason paramedics can not go light and sirens all the time and driving light and sirens is dangerous no matter how safe the driver behind the wheel of the ambulance is. Once a paramedic starts driving emergency traffic it is important for them to always be aware of other drivers and to be extra careful, a bad traffic accident can end a new paramedics career in a blink of an eye.
Some people can break their hand or foot and drive themselves to the hospital, and others may sprain their wrist and think that it is an emergency worthy of calling 911 for, because they can not handle the pain. For many paramedics neither of these situations would be a reason that they would call for an ambulance, as such it can be very difficult to be sympathetic to everyone's situation. And the fact that a call can come in for a 30 year old man who has been vomiting for 3 days, right after performing CPR on an infant, can make it even more challenging to sympathize with the 30 year old. Situations like this are part of the paramedics job and no matter how small an emergency may seem it is still an emergency to the person that called. It can be easy for a paramedic to let the scenes that do not seem urgent get to them, thinking that the person is wasting there time. This sort of attitude can shorten a career by causing them to become frustrated with their job. It is beneficial to keep in mind, going into the field, that not all calls are emergencies and not all emergencies will always seem to be.
The frustration that can result for EMS being less about emergencies and more about being there for people when they do not feel good can easily cause a paramedic to become burned out with their job, and thus fail as a medic. Saving lives may be what we get into this job for and may be the most rewarding part of our job, but It is equally or more important to your success as a paramedic to be content with helping people in the small matters as well, because that is what much of our job is about. Paramedicen is a very exciting and rewarding job and one that I am proud to be part of, but having the right mind set getting into it and maintaining that mindset is very important for longevity as a paramedic.