Yes, I know that’s a quote used in a George W. Bush speech. Yes, I know some of you may not like President Bush. Truth be told, I don’t always either. (He’s like the Diet Coke of conservatism: Just one calorie, not conservative enough! — Apologies to Dr. Evil, by the way.)
But, truth be told, it’s a quote that applies so well to EMS. I’ve been guilty of it myself. And I think a lot of us are incredibly negative about EMS, our past, and our future. Day after day, I read posts on EMS social media about provider mental health. I read posts about the pay in EMS. Heck, I even read posts about poor EMS protocols, poor working conditions, and poor coworkers. When you read that, it’s easy to get discouraged about EMS.
Here’s the great news. Provider mental health is an issue. But we’re addressing it. The Code Green Campaign is raising awareness, promoting access to mental health care, promoting resiliency, and promoting self care. Reviving Responders is doing similar work as well.
As for the other issues, there are solutions. Forming associations to represent our profession at the state capitols where the majority of EMS regulation occurs is a huge step. Yesterday marked the one year anniversary of my state’s EMS association, the Association of Texas EMS Professionals. In that year, we’ve accomplished a lot – from providing paramedics the ability to work in hospital ERs to being recognized as the state affiliate of the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians to being called to testify before the Texas Legislature as witnesses on EMS issues.
For those of you complaining about poor pay, poor working conditions, and poor protocols, there are services out there that are looking for EMS professionals like you. It may involve getting out of your comfort zone, but these places exist — all over the country. At the risk of sounding like “tough love,” if you choose to still work for a bad employer, you have made your choice.
And yes, there are places where learning happens. Social media may have its faults (see also: EMS “clickbait” articles), but the FOAM (Free and Open Access to Medical Education) movement is bringing current medicine to all of us. Granted, much of it is geared to emergency physicians, but we should be learning at their level anyway. Medicine is medicine. EMS remains the only profession with arbitrary concepts like BLS and ALS. While there may be regulations governing scope of practice, I’ll give you some free legal advice. THERE IS ZERO LEGAL LIMITATION ON EXPANDING YOUR KNOWLEDGE. Other learning opportunities exist at EMS conferences. If you are only learning your profession from within your department, you’re selling yourself and your patients short. Insular clinical thinking and inbreeding in education is a disservice to our profession. Professional networking and exposure to new, outside ideas is how change happens in EMS. And there’s even opportunities to expand one’s EMS horizons on Facebook.
So, in conclusion, I’ll leave you with another cliché politicized quote that also applies to what we do in EMS. “It gets better.” And it starts with each of us. Go. Do. Medicine.