After receiving my first basic EMT certification I thought I was ready to save the world. EMS taught me very quickly that I did not know everything and would not save everyone. It also taught me that I could be covered in very unpleasant body fluids in the blink of an eye; I learned to keep a spare uniform at the station.
One very important lesson that EMS taught me was that this career is not always safe. Anything can happen and usually does. Danger can be in the form of traffic interfering with the unit on the way to a call, people on a scene, communicable diseases, fire or other form of threat to life or limb. Not only did I have to assess the patient, I had to look over my shoulder for the safety of my patient, my partner and myself.
In responding to scenes with evident danger such as a bar fight, stabbing or other violent occurrence, the police are usually present. They cannot predict the actions of those on the scene. Sometimes combatants will climb over an EMT or paramedic to get to one another. This has led me to taking a punch or two. On one call, a crazy woman broke a pool cue across my back because I was working on the man she stabbed. She had left the scene and entered through a back door unbeknownst to the police officer nearby. I yelled out in pain. The officer put her on the floor with a taser. Sadly, this was not the first time she had stabbed him. It was the fifth; this time it was nearly fatal.
A PCP addict nearly killed my partner, a police officer and me on one call. We fought for our lives for two minutes and thirty-eight minutes until help arrived. The addict was taken down by the sheer weight of ten officers on top of him. He was handcuffed to a stretcher and taken to the hospital. I did not hear about him after that. I was out of work for two weeks; my partner was out for a month and the police officer worked behind a desk for three months.
Although danger is part of the job, good things happen as well. Delivering babies is the pinnacle of a “good call.” The lucky EMT delivers the baby and gets to wear a plastic stork on his or her uniform; pink for a girl and blue for a boy. It is one of the unofficial perks of the job.
Other good calls include bandaging skinned knees, public education and providing first aid at public events. There are far more good calls than bad ones, which makes the career field very rewarding. Some calls are hysterically funny; the EMT learns quickly not to laugh at people. Instead, the EMT will suddenly need to “check something in the unit,” where he or she can giggle or laugh until self-control is restored. These calls are also part of the entire career field. Good, bad, funny, ugly; the EMS field is one of the most challenging and unique careers one can choose.