No one sets out to purposely end their career, regardless of the area in which they work. However, if you are an EMT or paramedic, the following are three things that you can do that will end your career quicker than you think that they might!
1. Take pictures of all of your scenes, patients and all.
For a number of years, I worked with a state board of EMS. In fact, I joke that I am currently a “recovering state EMS official.” At least once a year, a complaint would be filed regarding an EMS responder who took and distributed patient photos. When asked why the photos were taken the answer was almost always the same, “I thought I could use them for educational in-services.” Don’t kid yourself. As soon as a photograph violating HIPAA is shared, you lose complete and total control of it. Besides, do you REALLY think that there are not enough pictures already available to illustrate whatever EMS concept that you are trying to teach?
2. You only live once, so do it all!
I see this on a regular basis with paramedic students. They come into class bright eyed and idealistic with images of saving lives and stamping out disease. It is a well-known fact that pay in EMS is not anywhere near what it should be. In order to combat those low checks, medics and EMTs have a tendency to sign up for every overtime shift that is available while working as two or more agencies. Your body can only compensate for this for so long. A quote that is attributed to Green Bay Packers Coach Vince Lombardi reads, “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.”
Fatigue can also lead to an increased incidence of post-traumatic stress disorder as well as physical illnesses and injuries. Nothing can end an EMS career faster than blowing out your back.
3. Believe all of the hype about being a hero.
This word, “hero” has to be one of the most abused words in the English language and EMTs and paramedics are vulnerable to its siren call. Believing that you are a hero leads to arrogance. Arrogance leads to burning bridges and the problem with burning bridges is that inevitably, at some point in your future career, you will need to cross back over those very bridges. Instead think of the most effective leader that you know and chances are you will find a person who seeks input prior to making decisions. Model yourself to be like that person.
EMS is a crossroads unseen since the early 1970s. Make sure when your career in EMS is over that it occurs on your terms and not because of an unwise action that you should have foreseen. Make it fun while it lasts!