The Other EMS Week Post


Skip Kirkwood had this reply to a post by Michael Morse over at Rescuing Providence,

When we decided to settle for the lowest possible educational standards, and to fight every effort to upgrade our profession, this is what is left. It’s not too late to fix the situation, but if we let it go on much longer, somebody is going to step in front of us in line, and take the “good stuff” that is out there just beyond reach.

People who say “pay me first” don’t have a clue. You make the investment first, then later you get the divided.

I wish that I had written that. Well, I sort of have in the past, but not nearly as cogently and succinctly as Mr. Kirkwood.

Not only have we decided to settle for the lowest possible educational standards, in many cases we’ve demanded it. If you’re a reader of EMS blogs, I’m going to exempt you, because obviously EMS means something more to you than just a job. Sadly, the vast majority of EMS providers seem to be stopping here for a while to make some money while the figure out what they want to do when they grow up. Some want to be cops, many want to be firefighters, some want to be doctors, nurses, or PAs. They figure that EMS is a low cost investment that gives them some experience, pays them a bit, and isn’t all that hard. It’s ideal as a stepping stone to whatever it is they really want to do.

This attitude seems to permeate EMS at every level. We have minimal entry standards, minimal, if tedious recertification standards, no plan to make EMS a profession, and then we wonder why everyone eats our lunch. Every step of our professional lives is dictated by outsiders. Politicians, doctors, administrators, everyone seems to think that they know more about EMS than the people who actually work in it. Even “Our Week” is dictated to us by an outside organization. I know that the American College of Emergency Physicians came up with the idea. The question is why? Where was the National Association of EMTs when that was being put together? Oh, wait they are taking on a secondary role to ACEP and the International Association of Fire Chiefs.

No wonder we get no respect, we’ve done so little to deserve it.


  1. I’ve been wracking my brain trying to thing of a proper response to Skip’s comment. You just nailed it. I think I have some more to add, might be even another blog post coming.

  2. Is it in the nature of the people who get into EMS or is it in the nature of the job that EMS is the profession that never was?

    If it’s the people, then that means the only folk who sign up are those in it for the temporary rush. By nature, they won’t be around long enough to make the changes it takes to make this stick as a profession.

    If it’s the job then that means it’s just so frikkin’ tough that you simply don’t last long. Only long-suffering battle-axes like TOTWTYTR and Rogue stick with it!

    Personally, I think it’s the job AND the fact that the people don’t have healthy outlets to sort through the assaults as they get them. No one takes into account that there’s a reason people don’t stick around too long, and it’s more to do with “after a while, it just ain’t worth the pain!”

    And in this field, the pain comes from many different directions, from moral to physical to emotional to political, and yes, spiritual as well!. The one thing we’re not taught to deal with at all is our own pain and because of that, most don’t have room to deal with the pain of their peers either.

    In that way, we all suffer alone! It’s not the professionals that bolt from this field, it’s the human beings.

    It’s fair to say that the Fossils found some way to do deal with the assaults, either through their basic disposition or by learning, one challenging step at a time how to do the work and live with yourself and others at the same time.

    Street medics get used, abused, beat up, derided, dis-honored, minimized, praised beyond reason, scrutinized, and judged far more regularly than anyone in most other job descriptions, including Fire and Po-lice!. They’re expected to maintain the compassion of Mother Teresa while getting Joe to the ER for his sixth suicide attempt just after losing 22 year-old Mary to an ectopic pregnancy!

    So perhaps a more proper slogan for EMS Week would be something like “EMS. Not a job; a time-limited Calling!”

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