When I first started my emergency services career, I didn’t know it was going to be a career. I was 15 years old and didn’t have a clue what I wanted to be when I grew up. Six years later, I was studying to be a paramedic, and working as an EMT running wheelchair transport calls for Buck Ambulance. And now, 30 years later, I’m a paramedic field supervisor – doing what I love.
My first ambulance gig was a volunteer position. We ran calls simply because they let us. A couple of years later, I was a professional – being paid $4.10 and hour and working my tail off running about 30 calls in a 48 hour shift. I wasn’t getting rich, but I loved what I did.
I admit that it was the adrenalin rush that drew me in. The prestige of the uniform, and the ability to help people – all of that was fairly superficial, but what young punk isn’t drawn in my the superficial. Over time, however, I developed a more acute sense of what a paramedic does. Believe me when I say, it isn’t all lights, sirens, blood, and guts. In fact, being a paramedic is largely a crisis intervention position.
Yes, paramedics can bring you a vast array of advanced medical interventions. Basically, we bring the emergency room to you. It is more than first aid. But in addition, we seek to create order out of chaos, we calm souls in crisis, and we solve unsolvable social situations. We are the social service agency of last resort.
It wasn’t the money that drew me in – obviously. It wasn’t the working conditions – which are the most modest of any of the emergency services. And it certainly wasn’t the power and prestige – as far to often we are left feeling helpless and like a failure.
People tell me the meaning of life…”
People are often awestruck to meet a “real-life” paramedic. They have so many questions, many of them voyeuristic, some of them technical, but mostly they are just curious to get a glimpse of what we really do. They expect me to talk about gunshot wounds, terrible car wrecks, and heroic rescues. Instead, I tell them how rewarding it is to sit in the back of an ambulance with someone who is scared and afraid of dying (even if they’re not).
“People tell me the meaning of life,” I say. “If I listen closely, I can learn much about life as my patients share their stories with me.” This is what I find so great about what I do. When I sit on someone’s couch, offering calming reassurance, I am usually deeply rewarded. When I help a young mother work through the pain of her child’s injury, or listen to a family as they unfold the chaos that led to their son’s suicide, I know I’m making a difference.
Making a difference – that’s what I do. This is why I love my job! Sometimes it is through medical intervention, often it is emotional reassurance, and quite often it is simply bringing order to a chaotic situation. This is why I do what I do. I love to make a difference.