So you want to be a paramedic…

I figured this topic was a good place to start because I had a lot of questions and a pretty limited understanding about what paramedicine was all about before starting school.  I am fortunate to have a number of friends in the pre-hospital care world, and continue to benefit greatly from their knowledge, experience and advice.

As I said in my first post, I’m by no means an expert on the topic.  Most of my advice is just from personal experience, and hopefully the website links on the right will provide anyone interested in this career with lots of additional info about the profession.  I would also love it if other students / medics posted their thoughts as well!

First of all, I’m obviously biased, but I think paramedicine is one of the most exciting, rewarding and interesting careers out there.  Medicine in general provides a very unique opportunity to be a positive force in someone’s life, at a time that they genuinely need that help.  The opportunities within the pre-hospital world are many (PCP, ACP, CCP, flight, community medicine, private transport, research, teaching to name a few), and for me personally, that was a huge draw to start into this career.  There’s also just something pretty cool about knowing what to do in emergency situations (never a bad skill set to have)…and at the end of it all, you get to wear a cool uniform and play with some really neat toys.

It’s not all fun and games though…there are pros and cons in every line of work, and paramedicine often strikes me as one of extremes.  The highs are high, and the lows are low.  For every adrenaline pumping, skill testing, intense situation you face, there are many many “mundane” or “routine” calls in between.  I’ve found myself taking a step back a few times during my training so far and laughing about how much time and energy we put into running crazy intense multi-system trauma calls…when the reality of what we do is (usually) far less dramatic.  That said, at every call, you’re still interacting with, and helping someone in a (perceived?) time of need…but transporting someone to the hospital because their shoulder (or toe) hurts is far less interesting.

Not to be down on paramedicine, but there are a few other realities that bare mentioning if you’re interested in this career:

  1. It’s shift work.  Some people handle shift work better then others, but this is not your typical 9 – 5 weekends and holidays off kind of job.  Overnight shifts make family and social life difficult (though far from impossible), and to be honest, really aren’t very healthy.
  2. Heavy lifting.  We’ve gotten figures anywhere from 180-205lb for the average weight of patience we (literally) pick up these days…that’s heavy.  There are ways to lift properly, and with good exercise and technique, you can minimize your chances of injury, but again, at 4am, after 3 night shifts, trying to move the 300lb soaking wet (read: slippery) patient out of an awkward 3rd story bathroom…your risks go up pretty dramatically.
  3. Emotional toll.  I genuinely believe the psychological aspects of this job are under-appreciated, and definitely not talked about enough (part of the motivation for this site).  Every day paramedics deal with incredibly stressful and emotionally draining situations.  As I mentioned above, there are plenty of highs, but there are also lows that need to be acknowledged.

At the end of the day this is a very very cool job.  It’s a young profession and is changing and expanding very quickly (the job 15 years ago is very different from what paramedics do today, and 10 years from now it will be even more different/dynamic).  To be part of a profession that has so much room to grow, and will change so much in our lifetime is something that is very appealing to me.  Most people I’ve talked to “got into” paramedicine because of their desire to help others…and I think for many, this job is a calling for that reason alone.  There are many other facets to this career, but at its core, that’s what we’re doing, we’re helping others in their time of need.  How cool is it that we get paid for that??

(There are lots of links on the right with more information about paramedicine in Ontario.  The Ontario Paramedic Association website is a bit finicky, but has lots of good information about scope of practice and links to various paramedicine programs in the province.  If you’re thinking about becoming a medic and have specific questions, please post them below or definitely feel free to email me at mike@emsstudent.ca)



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2 Responses to So you want to be a paramedic…

  1. Well done Mike! I think this will be a great resource for students and would-be students.

  2. Mike says:

    Thanks Rob. I’m really excited to see where it goes (there’s definitely a lot of potential).
    I’ll probably snag a bunch of your blogroll / links and throw them on here as well (not to duplicate too much) if you don’t mind.

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