So, in a fit of rage, I was almost tempted to write a screed about how EMS providers don’t deserve the $15 per hour wage that fast food workers are protesting and clamoring for. My rationale was (and remains) simple. After watching the attitudes from so many EMS providers, especially in the average online discussion, I’d be hard pressed to argue that many people in EMS deserve to be paid this much even. Whether it’s the blind devotion to dogma (See also: Spinal motion restriction), the overinflated sense of self importance (See also: the usual t-shirt slogans about how under 200 hours of first aid training is equivalent to being a physician), or the culture that mocks education (See also: The usual claptrap about EMTs saving paramedics and/or “BLS before ALS”), it’s clear that many people in EMS are overpaid at minimum wage.
Today, though, I dug deeper into a recent EMS discussion about the priority between hemorrhage control and the classic “Airway, Breathing, Circulation” priorities that are drilled into almost every EMS provider. I noticed that the majority of providers wanted a definite, absolute answer. They wanted a clearcut answer.
Here’s the problem. In any learned profession, whether it’s engineering or medicine, the answers are rarely clear. Answers to most questions are heavily dependent on both the facts of the situation and the judgment of the professional. As both an attorney and a paramedic, my favorite answer to any question is, “It depends.” But too many of us in EMS want a definite answer. We want a protocol or a flowchart to follow. We claim that we want to be treated as professionals, but then we want someone to supply us the answers and make it easy for us. Following the protocols or the skills sheet truly is the medical version of being a fry cook. Congrats! We’ve earned our $15.