The Prospective Paramedic

To the Paramedic who may be,

If you ask seasoned Paramedics about pursuing a career in paramedicine, many will tell you to run far and fast in another direction. They’ll say these words, as the grin across their face tells you to do precisely the opposite. If you ask another question to dig a little deeper into the career path, congratulations. You just passed the first test.

This is not a career for the wallflower scared of digging deeper at the first sign of adversity; nor is this a career for the icy cold clinician out of touch with their own humanity. At times the job will require toughness you didn’t know you possessed, knowledge you simply don’t have, and tenderness you didn’t know was possible. You will bear witness to humanity at its absolute pinnacle and it’s darkest depths. You will witness these events in places other healthcare workers will never see or fully understand; many times with no one but your partner by your side. There will be births, deaths, tears, screams, laughter, moments of terror, moments of disgust, and moments of profound boredom (especially between demanding calls). You will experience elation, despair, confusion, and fatigue all over the course of a twelve hour shift (some days you’ll experience them just trying to get your morning coffee).

The education will challenge you as you spend roughly 90% of your educational time learning material applicable to maybe 10% of your calls. If you carry on to more advanced levels of practice, your new knowledge will benefit an even smaller portion of patients. Conversely, the less likely an area of knowledge or practice is to benefit a patient, the greater the benefit will be to the patient requiring said knowledge or intervention. These low frequency high impact events will define your self worth if you let them; don’t let them. Remember the elderly woman’s thankful smile as you help her to her feet. The knowledge you use and the skill you display matter, but they will not be remembered. What will be remembered is the way you make patients and their loved ones feel.

You will miss birthdays, weddings, family dinners, vacations, meals, and the beckoning call of your own bed. Make it to these events whenever you can. They give you back your humanity on the days you feel it slipping away. You will lose friends who don’t understand these absences while gaining new friends who will be yours for life. You will have partners you spend more time with than your own spouse. Your work-wife/work-husband can be your greatest work asset or your greatest liability so choose well when given the option. Every person you work with is an opportunity to better learn your craft. Your many partners over your career will teach you both what to do and what not to do.

Most importantly, you will be changed by the things you see and do. Whether the change is for the better or for the worse is up to you. May it be for the better.

May the reader heed this warning as the author sits with a grin. “You don’t want to be a Paramedic. Go find another career.”

Edward Peters

BCYPA President

Critical Care Paramedic