Step 5: What to Expect Your First Year
This is dependent on the type of service you are in. Most fire based services run a 24 on and either a 48 or 72 off schedule. Some do a 24 on, 24 off, 24 on, 24 off than 4 days off.
Typically, the fire based services work an average of 8 days a month. Some EMS departments run this type of schedule as well. Again, that will depend on your geographical location. Running 24 hours in Ames Iowa is very different than running 24 hours straight in Chicago or New York.
Another consideration is the requirements for maintaining your paramedic license or certification. Yes, some places license their pre-hospital care givers and some just certify them. Either way, there can be some hefty requirements for relicensing which are fairly common nationwide.
You can expect your day to start with roll call, checking your unit out, taking care of some administrative issues such as replacing radio batteries, signing for drugs, etc. Some departments like to get their physical activity in early before you hit those magical patient transport hours. Part of the day may also involve recovering equipment at other hospitals, participating in some of training, or attending some type of in-service.
Additionally in this time span there is also house work and details for cleaning which have to be done. One advantage I have found, or disadvantage depending on your perspective, is that when on the medic unit I somehow usually get out of housework due to being on a call!
To Sum It All Up - All in all, it’s an exciting job. The days come and go quickly, and if you’re in a busy house they’ll go even faster. There are entire cultures and industries devoted to critical care, flight medicine, off-shore, remote EMS as well as private and hospital based opportunities. All of these have their own rules and regulations, but at the end it comes down to one thing: doing what’s best for your patient. A few things I have learned along the way
1. It’s a job where the learning is continuous. Read the journals, get more than your share of CME, and attend conferences. At the end of the day, nothing will help you more than having science and research covering your back
2. Patience is a virtue. Very few emergencies exist that you have to run to the patient. More than likely they’ll be running to you! Why take the chance of getting hurt? Be cautious and get there intact.
3. As I have matured through the years I have gone from the adrenaline junkie to being a patient advocate who now enjoys spending time with the little old lady having difficulty breathing and helping her rather than running the blood and gut traumas. Allow yourself to grow into your job and change as your desire and physical abilities change.
4. Never miss an opportunity for education and more importantly never miss an opportunity to mentor. Knowledge without sharing is knowledge in a vacuum…alone and wasted.
5. It’s important to realize early on that you can’t save everyone…but you can help quite a few.
While EMS is not for everyone, it just may be your desired life’s career. Don’t discount the fact that it may also be a springboard for furthering your clinical career. I know many fine nurses physicians, and physician assistants who started in EMS, and because of their exposure to pre-hospital medicine decided to continue their education.
These individuals have become great advocates for out profession. Yes, EMS is not for everyone…but is it for you?