Many people retired from EMS lament their past as some of the best times of their lives and state how much they miss working the road. Why did they stop? Injury, Age, Working Conditions, Lack of Upward Mobility, Time Away From Family and Money or combination of the six are the likeliest explanations. Otherwise, why wouldn’t people stay longer at a job they love?
I worked full time hours as a paramedic from January 1995 to June 2020 (ages 37 to 62), and have continued to work part-time since then. For a while, I worked 24 hours a week, and now I only work ten hours a week. Since 2007, I have also had another job as an EMS Coordinator, going from 70% time in the beginning to full-time (40 Hours) two years ago. I have worked 60-70 hours a week most of my EMS life. Where it used to be 60-70 hours on the road (unlimited overtime), and then 36 plus hours on the road, 28 in the office, now at 64, I am down to 40 in the office, 10 on the road.
While I am only working ten hours a week “on the road” these days, I am very busy doing 10-16 911s a shift as a rapid response medic (only a few of which I end up being the transport medic). Still, at times feel like a retired medic, and miss the paramedic life. If I could work extra days in the week, I would likely pick up more shifts. Or maybe not.
Why maybe not? As much as I love working the streets, I also like my days off, time with family, time resting. When I started as a medic in 1995, I worked three 12 hour shifts, Tuesday to Thursday 7-19:00. We were frequently held late. Fridays, I lay in bed recovering. Now only working Fridays, on Saturdays I am as tired as I was as a younger man having worked three in a row.
Let me breakdown the pros and cons of the EMS life,
Pro EMS Life
Chance to Help People. Maybe even save a life.
New Experiences (Every Patient encounter at least offers the opportunity to learn and refine.
Great stories to tell. And some to write about.
Camaraderie. There’s few things like it.
Great Carryout food in Hartford (Jamaican, Puerto Rican, Brazilian, Vietnamese, Central American).
Lots of chances to talk with different people (patients, other responders, people in the city). I read recently that small talk with strangers is good for the soul and your health.
Getting to drive lights and sirens. Wooo Wooo!
It helps my EMS coordinator job that I am still out on the street. I haven’t completely lost my street medic understanding.
A deserving cold beer when I get home if I am not too tired to enjoy one.
Cons EMS Life
Climbing Up four flights of stairs carrying you gear that gets heavier every year.
Danger. Driving lights and sirens is no joke. Not a shift goes by that I don’t thank myself for stopping at interactions to look both ways.
Stress. I still get stressed on the way to call when I know what’s waiting for me. Will I be able to perform? Will I do right by my patient?
I hate suctioning.
Sadness, Declining health, injury and bad life situations of others affect me far more today than they did years ago when I was new and ten feet tall.
Time away from family. My daughter has several volleyball games during my shifts this fall that I will miss. (She made varsity as a freshman without having played before! She told me not to brag, but I can’t help myself and she doesn’t read my blog, anyway.) I hate missing her games. I missed way too many of her sister’s.
Note: The featured image for this post is a drawing my middle daughter made for me 17 years ago.