Being an EMT or a paramedic isn’t for everyone. While many people find the experience rewarding, not everyone who qualifies to be an emergency medical services (EMS) responder is cut out to make the job their long-term career. Before you decide to train as a paramedic or as an EMT, it can be a good idea to see if you have the following traits and qualities below.
Emergency responders don’t have 9-to-5 jobs. Shifts are usually much longer than your typical office job and can be scheduled erratically. Paramedic scheduling solutions have done wonders for improving EMS responder work schedules and removing this downside from the job. Sometimes, a serious call would come in the 5 minutes leading to the end of your shift. Being flexible is therefore a requirement for those who wants to make EMS a career.
Being a self-starter is essential for anyone who wants to become an EMS worker. You will be the one people turn to for help at crisis scenes and you will not be able to wait for someone to tell you what to do. Many of the injuries and conditions you’ll encounter also need to be treated before you’ll have the chance to ask medical control for assistance. If you are the type who always waits for orders before proceeding, you may have to unlearn this behavior or else you’ll struggle at the job.
Compassion and empathy are essential for the core mission of EMS responders, which is to provide pre-hospitalization healthcare interventions. Performing this mission effectively requires first responders to not only understand the physical state of their patients but also their emotional state. This makes it easier to have accurate assessments which are essential for good patient outcomes.
4. Good Communication Skills
EMTs and paramedics should have good communications skills as well. Much of the job involves talking to patients at accident sites and other crisis areas and listening to their specific complaints. In many cases, you may have to read between the lines of whatever they’re saying and connect it with your own observations.
Additionally, you will need these skills to be able to effectively communicate with remote medical control center personnel, patients’ family members, emergency room staff, and other first responders. Other times, you will need to coordinate with your EMS organization to communicate the details of your daily tasks. It will certainly help if your organization makes use of a modern and robust EMS reporting software to ensure that all aspects of your operations can be analyzed and reported, but a lot of the work still comes down to individual workers doing their own reports everyday.
While a lot of the work EMS professionals do is following standard protocols and procedures, there will be times when creative problem-solving will be needed. This is likely to become truer in the near future as the US faces labor shortages in the EMS industry.
6. Mental Resilience
Mental resilience is usually defined as being able to bounce back and adapt in the face of adversity and trauma. EMS professionals are exposed to all kinds of traumatic events regularly. These can easily take a toll on someone who is not mentally prepared for it. The effects are also amplified by the schedules and the pace of work expected from EMS responders. Being able to tough things out and consistently take care of one’s mental health is a necessity for a long-term career in EMS.
7. A Strong Stomach
While some people may be mentally resilient in general, not everyone can stand the sight of blood and gore, both of which are daily facts of life for paramedics and EMTs. While many people can get used to it, a few may suffer from sympathetic vomiting, a condition that causes uncontrollable vomiting in response to the sight, smell and sound of things such as bodily fluids. While these reactions are usually easier to adapt to compared to mental and emotional trauma, having a strong stomach from the start makes you a better fit for this profession.
If you stay in the job long enough, you will inevitably experience things that are stressful or emotionally disturbing. Knowing how to stay calm in these conditions despite what you’re feeling is essential for communicating with others and for delivering quality care to patients. If you have problems with anxiety or easily lose your composure, you may want to reconsider taking on this job.
9. An Excellent Work Ethic
While they might not realize it or show their appreciation, the public relies on EMTs and paramedics to perform essential healthcare services, whether or not anyone is watching. Not being able to take the job seriously is not only a disservice to the profession and to yourself, but it also puts people’s lives in danger. If you’re truly committed to putting in the work, being an EMS professional may be the career path for you.
Do You Want to Work in EMS?
Working in emergency medical services can be physically and emotionally demanding. Though innovations like new portable monitors, computer-aided training, cloud-based ePCRs, and paramedic scheduling software have made the job somewhat less stressful, being an EMS worker still favors those with the right set of traits.
Despite all that, most EMS workers would agree that their jobs are ultimately rewarding. EMS work can be meaningful, is beneficial to the community, offers opportunities for personal and professional growth, and allows the practice of a diverse set of skills—things you can’t say about every job.
HR Future Staff Writer