How to Not Be THAT Medic in 12 Easy Steps

Have you ever wondered if you are THAT medic? You know, the one that causes the eye rolling when they’ve once again said something ignorant over the radio or embarrassed their crew in front of the nursing staff. Whether you’re fresh out of school, or a 20-year veteran, you don’t want to be THAT medic. The good news is, now you don’t have to be!

I’ve compiled an easy-to-follow 12-step process to ensure that you don’t have to be THAT medic. Feel free to use and distribute as you please. Consider it my gift.

Step 1: Never stop learning

As Kelly Grayson often says: There are very few people in EMS with 20 years of experience, but a whole bunch with 1 year of experience, repeated 20 times. Too many of us are still operating on the same knowledge level they had the day they graduated from paramedic school. Read a trade journal, practice some skills, ask questions and understand that medicine is constantly changing. Oh yeah, and remember no matter hard it is to believe, you aren’t smarter than the physicians and researchers performing studies and putting years of work into new guidelines.

Step 2: Know Your Place in Health Care

The quicker you understand that you aren’t the geographical center of the medical universe, the easier this still will be. As EMS providers, we are literally a tiny spec of dust on the centuries-old healthcare map that fell there sometime in the late 70’s. Don’t pretend to act like you understand a physician or nurse’s job better than they do. Pissed off that you’re taking a transfer for what you’ve deemed a “ridiculous” reason? Just take a deep breath and remember that a lot more went into that process than what you can possibly imagine. This also applies to nursing homes, hospice care, home health, doctor’s offices, etc. Showing up with an arrogant attitude just makes you and the rest of us look bad.We have a specialty, and that is to care for the ill and injured for the first 20 minutes to an hour of their event. We are very good at what we do and we should be proud of that. Take pride in what you do and let the rest of the medical world do what they do best.

Step 3: Don’t be a Jerk on the Radio

Seriously, when you make a smart-ass comment to a dispatcher, you just look like a jerk, and an ignorant one at that. Unless you’ve worked as a dispatcher and completely understand what goes into their job, then keep your mouth shut and run your freaking calls. Have a problem with the way something is handled? Be a professional and follow your formal complaint process.

Step 4: Don’t Put Down Others

Treat your partners, first-responders, patients and bystanders just as you would want the hospital staff and physicians to treat you. Making people feel stupid accomplishes nothing but building a list of people that would rather not work with you. By the way, medics that are worth a damn all know that medics who act like jerks are usually compensating for a severe insecurity. You’re not fooling anyone. You’re just making yourself look like a fool.

Step 5: Know When to Ask for Help

There is absolutely no way for us to know or catch everything. Being a smart medic isn’t about knowing everything, it’s about knowing where to find everything. It’s also about knowing when you can’t reasonably or safely handle a situation on your own.
Resource utilization, it’s a wonderful thing.

Step 6: Calm the F&*# Down

These are not your emergencies, so don’t make them yours. When you freak out, you severely hinder your critical thinking abilities. Take a deep breath, stand back for a few minutes and come up with a plan of action. Rushing things, yelling at people, and screaming on the radio only makes a bad situation worse. There is absolutely NEVER a scenario where you should lose your cool. You’re trained to deal with life-threatening emergencies, so do it.

Step 7: Slow the F&*# Down

Only in EMS will we spend half our shift complaining about all the “B.S.” calls that we run, and then drive at ridiculous speeds to get to them. Driving like idiots doesn’t increase anyone’s chance of survival. It only ensures that you will eventually add to the statistic of EMS providers that are killed while responding to calls. No call is worth getting killed over.

Step 8: Learn How to Use an Iron

Seriously, one of the biggest, positive impacts we could make on our industry would be to show up looking like a professional. Iron your freaking shirt.

Step 9: Let Other People Have Better Stories

Don’t be a one-upper. No matter how bad the urge, let your peers take the glory every now and then. Nobody likes or believes the medic who seems to have run every call humanly possible.

Step 10: Always Listen to First Responders and Patients

Nothing makes you look stupid like walking into a hospital and completely missing something obvious that the patient or first responders tried to tell you. Once again, you would expect an ER nurse to give you the respect of listening to your report, so do the same for everyone else.

Step 11: Don’t Let EMS Consume Your Life

Want to turn into a miserable burnout in 5 years? Just ignore this step. If you want to actually enjoy your life and your career, you need a balance. Know when to turn off the radio and do things that don’t involve EMS. Start a side business, do a spontaneous road trip, go wine tasting, take up photography, etc.
Of course, this is coming from the guy who writes for 3 trade journals and runs his own EMS blog….
Moving on….

Step 12: Just Say NO to Those Tacky EMS Shirts

There is a big difference between being proud and being a douche bag. I’m all for EMS-themed shirts that are tasteful and promote the industry in a POSITIVE way. Wearing garbage with slogans like “here to save your ass, not kiss it” just sets the entire industry back to the perception that we are a bunch of tools who get off on driving fast and playing with flashy lights. Want people to treat you like a professional? Act like one.


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