Time to Thank Those EMS Providers

By Dr. Meredith Collins
July 31, 2012 • comment(s)
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Ever have those moments, those days, when you feel unsupported in your chosen profession?  Yesterday was the day for me. I love what I do with such passion, that it angers me when others taint my profession with lack of knowledge of what goes into teaching.  Believe me, the five hours a day of delivering the lesson is the cake.  There’s a lot that happens to get those hours accomplished and even more that has to happen after they’ve transpired.  But not everyone gets that or cares to listen.

Upon seeing my frustration, my husband reached out to me trying to help me understand the conversation may not have been a personal attack, then told me not to take it so personally.  But how could I not?  Never have I been in a workplace, and teaching’s the 2nd career choice for me, where the principal, CEO, manager, whoever had to get up in front of their employees to tell them they are making a difference, keep going strong, don’t listen to the negativity out there.

And then my husband paused.  “I have,” he said.  I barely heard him.  I was feeling badly, unsupported, and this purging of what is and what isn’t was needed.  “I have,” he said a bit louder.

I didn’t believe him at first, and started to tell him that.  He’s a paramedic, a Captain, one of the good guys out there, right?  I mean when I think of paramedics I think of the people who do all the gross stuff.  If I’m hurt and I call 911, they’re the ones that are going to show up.  I’ve heard the stories.  I know what he does.   “Yeah, but when is there negative publicity about your profession out there?” I asked, still rather naïve about the situation.

“When is there publicity, period?” he questioned.  And I thought about it, and he’s right.  Why aren’t we thanking our EMS providers, the ones that are in private sectors?  We group them all together with the “First Responder” title, but then separate the police force and the firemen.  Where’s the separate accolade for our EMS providers? 

Forty-three EMS providers perished in 911, but I didn’t know that until I looked it up…today.  I couldn’t stop there.  I started reading research articles, and was astounded at the risk our EMS providers put themselves in.  And do so rather selflessly—there’s no EMS provider calendar to pose for (or is there one out there somewhere?), no news camera capturing their heroics, no headline stories about them.  One research article I read that was put out in the November 2011 issue of PEC, stated the EMS fatality rate is 7.0 per 100,000 FTEs—the average for workers is 4.0; the average for firemen is 6.1.  I was shocked to say the least, and ignorant of what my husband really does.

And I thought about why these numbers for EMS providers are so high.  I thought about the ambulances rushing through traffic, trying to save a life or a limb or whatever needs saving and the people that fail to yield to the blaring lights and sounding siren.  The number of crashes and EMS providers killed or injured due to such neglect are the biggest source of these high rates.  I have the luxury of snow days; my husband does not.  Regardless of the weather, when an emergency arises that ambulance will make its way on scene.  And it does. 

And I thought about the way these men and women have to lift, maneuver, carry these folks of every size and the injuries they can ascertain.  And I don’t know about you, but if a person looks a bit pale, maybe coughs a bit, I’m outta there.  Our EMS providers are exposed to many diseases, illnesses, and just yucky stuff all the time.  That in itself deserves a medal in my book…  And I can’t even imagine seeing the things that they see all day long without having those images haunting me at night.  For my husband, it’s attending to kids that have been abused, injured, or killed that stay with him.  His eyes change when he talks about those patients, and how could they not?

“But you’re seen as a hero in the community,” I insisted to my husband.  “I’ve always thought so anyway.”

And his response made me take a step back, made me have to write this article, and do a bit of research on EMS providers.

“When have you ever thought about paramedics until you met me?”

I didn’t want to admit that he was right, but he is.  When my kids were little, every year I brought cookies and sweets to the firehouse and they climbed all over the fire trucks, trying on the gear.  I’ve invited countless police officers into my classroom during my unit on crime.  But never have I included the EMS provider in that category.  And I felt really bad because they’re the ones who responded first at my school for students on more than one occasion.  They’re the ones who I think of first whenever an injury occurs at one of my children’s sporting events.  They’re the ones I want attending to me, should an accident ever occur.  They’re the ones we forget to celebrate, to honor, to merely say thank you to.

Today I plan on giving my husband a little extra squeeze when he gets home.  To thank him and his co-workers for the amazing job they do every single day—and not only for our city, but the surrounding cities when needed.  Thank you all for getting in the trenches doing the work that only a special someone can truly do right.  For running into disasters, when everyone else is running out.  For not picking and choosing who and when you’re going to treat.  For calming the nerves of the parent who sees their child hurt, or calming the crying child who sees their parent hurt.  For treating people in vulnerable states with professionalism and kindness.  For simply not being afraid.  Thank you.

My husband is passionate about his chosen profession, as am I.  I’ve learned through him that being the step-child of “First Responders” feels much the same as being scrutinized.  Bottom line is both my husband and I are in our careers because we care, we want to make a difference, and every now and again we need someone to appreciate all that we do—I think everyone needs this…

I encourage all of you to thank an EMS provider today, tomorrow, and always.  Lord knows, they deserve it.

Read more from Meredith. 

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Meredith is a mom, sister, wife, friend, teacher, critic, Starbucks junkie, writer, coach, and a million other things. She enjoys writing about the good, scary, funny, sad, exciting and all those other truths that too many people are afraid to write about. You can find her blog at http://merelovesthepack.blogspot.com or on Twitter: @FmTheSidelines. 









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Anonymous's picture

Thank you so very much for your thank you! There is one group that would appreciate your comments more than EMS professional and that would be the EMS professionals families. Our families deal with our mood swings and sacrifice so much more than anybody could imagine. I could not continue in this profession without the love and understanding of my family.

George Wheehler's picture

P.S. Not all the EMS workers that died on 9/11 were included in the "343"! Those who were, were also Firefighters who worked a second job in EMS, but were considered Firefighters first because that was their primary career (James Papageorge, Mario Santoro). There were people that worked in two different midtown hospitals for 911 participating voluntary units who were not firefighters (St.Claires and St.Luke's) to name the two I know of.

Amy's picture

Thank you. Thank you for seeing what most people do not. EMS professionals are a rare breed. We not wish for the worst on people, but when it's some else's worst day we are at our best. We practice for that moment.

I have been in EMS for 10 years, and prior to that I too didn't pay them much mind. I had a college roommate that worked as an EMT and I remember thinking, "Why in the world would you want to do that?"

My patient may only be with me for a short time, but each one teaches me something new...and even some stay in my heart.

It is rare that someone comes back to the station and thanks us. We don't expect it, but when it happens it is mind blowing. To see the gratitude is not why we do this...but once in awhile it's nice to know that someone appreciates you :)

George Wheehler's picture

I've been in EMS for 23 yrs, and a NYC 911 Paramedic working for a 911participating voluntary hospital for 10yrs. In the city you can find The Bravest (FDNY), The Finest (NYPD), The Boldest (Corrections) and even The Strongest (Sanitation) what heroic sounding title has been bestowed upon EMS? Even immediately after 9/11, the media failed to acknowledge the existence of EMS even though THOUSANDS were treated that day and in the days to follow. Yes there is an EMS Week, but who's ever heard about it or knows when it is? Barely even MY hospital! We do what we do for the love of "the game", certainly not for the pay or the recognition. We deal with and see things on a regular basis that would bring even the most hardened person to their knees. PTSD was perfected by EMS workers! We are forgotten by the media and the public, and sometimes by our own families and its about time that changes.

Thank you for acknowledging the work we and your husband do!

Anonymous's picture

I wish to thank you so Very much for the Heart Felt appreciation and time you took to acknowledge us in this profession, it isnt somthing we hear often:}.
I started this when 15 n half, and have been a Paramedic/Fire Fighter/EMT/ Flight Medic for 30 years now.
Yes we do have EMS week however, when someone puts there heart into Saying thank you to Us and Honestly appreciate what we do and experiance daily, it means so Much !!! We work 72 hr straight shifts and see many things than I wouldnt wish on anyone, but some of us this has been a calling, No not all can handle the demands or the Horors we see daily, But for some of us, it was what we were ment to do.
So again I say thank You from my Heart for taking the time to see, just a little of what we do, and for thinking of us when this world has become so involved in only thinking of ones self.
You are Very Kind and Ill always remember you nice words and thoughts

Anonymous's picture

Thank you for this! We are a forgotten piece of the public service puzzle. While we don't do this for the praise, it still is amazing when we get that "thank you."

Anonymous's picture

I laud your article on this, but there is one other group that deserves attention in the emergency services world, the 911 dispatchers. We may not be on the streets, but we are the first line of communication from the public to those who are. We are responsible for the safety of the police, fire, and EMS workers, and we take that job seriously. The public screams at us, the first responders at best are apathetic, and at times downright abusive. We do our best to send responders to the correct location when people themselves don't even know where they are, yet if the information we get is faulty, w are the only ones people blame. we do 5 things at once, and can't Neglect one single task or risk the safety of the public and responders, and despite it all, the only public acknowledgment we get is when we make a mistake, and the public demands we are fired, as it is broadcast nationwide.

med912's picture

Very nice article. I'm thinking you are not from the USA? There has been a National EMS Week for many years as far as I can remember. This is usually around the 2nd-3rd week in May every year. This is to honor all EMS workers. In the area I am from Hospital get on board with this and give token gifts to the EMS personnel when they stop in, all the Hospital in the County have free food for EMS people when they stop in. The Trauma Center in the County reserves a park and holds a picnic, all EMS people and their families are invited to this. There are many different activities this week, many EMS Units have Open Houses for the public to come in and visit, take a tour, meet and greet. I've been a paramedic for 30 years, I have been involved in EMS for 40 and love every day.
If your community does not have an EMS Week, maybe they should start planning on events to do, get some community support behind you and make people aware of it.

Alan Rose's picture

Thank you for recognizing us. And you're welcome. I've had many people say they couldn't do my job. To me it's easy and natural. I always tell them I couldn't do their job either.

Flight Paramedic's picture

Before I became a flight paramedic, I paid my dues, and lots of them; as a volunteer first aider in my local town, then as an EMT, as a paid EMT for a transport service, and then as a paramedic at a hospital based 911 system before I became a fire department paramedic in a major US city in the 1980's. We were an afterthought, EMS. A lot of systems were supported by volunteers and they would take anyone who applied. But EMS has grown up, and we deserve to be treated as the professionals we have become. We are not firefighters (in all fairness, many of us are, but you do not have to be a firefighter to be an EMT or paramedic), but the firefighters know who to call when they get in trouble, as do the cops, "call the paramedics!". Yep, that's us, underpaid, underrated, underaprecciated and often unknown....bring it on, that's what we expect! And we'll be here for you, the general public, for your family, your friends, your neighbors, as well as the cops and firefighters. We are EMS and WE ARE PROUD!