To work in EMS, you must possess the following qualities:
1. Must be willing to leave your family at the dinner table in the middle of a meal to go and save someone else’s family.
2. Must not be squeamish around blood, saliva, snot, urine, and use your imagination to fill in this gap with any other bodily fluid that might come flying in your direction.
3. Must have the understanding that not every call you go on is going to result in everyone leaving the scene alive. People will die despite your greatest effort. Death will show itself to you. You will see it with your eyes. You will feel the pain in your heart as you watch their loved ones fall apart at the news. You will feel the pain in your heart for the people who do not have loved ones there to mourn them. It will happen. You need to be ready.
4. You must understand that you are meeting people sometimes on the very worst day of their lives. You also might be seeing the same patient for the millionth time for the exact same complaint. You might be yawning and longing for your warm and cozy bed at 4 am as you are going through the medical history of the woman who’s pain lasts all day but is only ever bad enough to call 911 in the middle of the night. Be compassionate. Be kind. Everyone is fighting a battle that you know nothing about, and in the midst of their struggle, they called you. Be there. Be the voice that comforts them and calms their fear.
5. You have to be weird. Do I really need to say anything else? Who runs into situations that anyone in their right mind would run in the opposite direction from? Who longs for the chance to not only be present when someone is hurt or sick, but wants to make it better? Who in their right mind gets a rush of adrenaline when the pager goes off and the sirens start to wail? Oh that’s right. If you work in EMS, it’s you.
It will run you ragged. It will burn you out. It will sting your eyes with tears, and there will be times when you ask yourself what in the hell you were thinking getting into this demanding, physically and emotionally strenuous occupation.
Then you will realize that the ability to save a life is held in your hands. Only 15% of people who receive CPR make it out of the hospital. Over 500,000 people will have a sudden cardiac arrest this year. 15% of those people will survive. Will you be giving one of those 15% chest compressions and rescue breaths? Will you hold a baby in your arms who has stopped breathing and suddenly feel yourself flooded with relief and thanksgiving when the baby suddenly lets out an ear piercing wail that cuts through the tension in the room? Will you comfort a scared child who has fallen from her bike? Will you look into the eyes of a man who thinks he is having a heart attack and put him at ease knowing he is in good and capable hands?
Oralpharyngeal airways. Nasalpharyngeal airways. Combitubes. King tubes. Pocket masks. Bag valve masks. Non rebreathers and cannulas. If these words excite you at all, maybe you ought to give EMS a try. Be the person who brings relief to disasters. Be the person who’s presence puts people at ease. Be the person who saves a life.
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