For Love of the Job

I have a few friends I consider extended family. One of them in particular feels like a brother from another mother. We have a similar taste for good food and sarcasm mixed with snark. And like me, he doesn’t do EMS full-time. He’s not paid either. He’s a pretty wicked smart (I think that’s the New England term) MBA who is in the financial sector full time and volunteers as a “paramedic light” and firefighter. He’s also acquired a taste for Texas BBQ. (You’re welcome for that trip to Cooper’s.)

He and I are in a group chat with several other like minded individuals. And yes, we’re probably talking about you.

But here’s what caught my eye this morning.

My friend mentioned the trust that the public places in us. The other night, he gets called for a six week old child with respiratory distress. In his own words, he says “it’s 99% likely panicking parent and 1% potential for ‘oh sh-t.'” Fortunately, the kid turns out to be ok. And I’ll quote his words on the next part, which is the key part. “Here’s the trust part: the other twin was crying so mom says ‘I have to get her’ and just hands me the little one. Has NO idea who these three guys standing in her living room are, never met or seen us before, we’re in a mix of regular clothes and ‘uniform,’ etc. Hands me the kiddo and goes upstairs like it’s nothing.” Exactly, my friend. Exactly.

He did a thorough assessment of the kiddo, then calmed the kiddo — and Mom and Dad. And whatever he was thinking about being woken up for what turned out to be a low acuity call, he made the patient and family feel as if they were all that mattered. (On that note, I’d note that there are more than a few paid EMS providers out there whose attitude is much less “professional” than my fellow volunteer in a small New England state.)

Years ago, a San Marcos cop told me that regardless of how silly it seems, to the person who called 911, it’s the most important thing that’s happened to them that day. It’s a lesson I try to remember when I’m responding and it’s the lesson I try to impart to those who I train and work with.

For those of us in emergency services and emergency medicine, we’re offered a ringside seat to humanity. Those who call us trust us implicitly. Let’s keep earning that trust. Train like it counts. Care for people like they’re your family. And never stop learning.

Earlier this week on Facebook, I said “Do the work. Be nice. Look like a professional. Polish your duty boots.” My friend from New England shared his experience that reminded me exactly why those things count — for both us and the public we’re trusted to care for. I hope I never violate that trust and that you don’t either.