My fellow blogger Chris Kaiser from Life Under the Lights recently posted an interesting blog responding to an ambulance he saw at the Fire Department Instructors’ Conference (FDIC) in Indianapolis, IN that had emblazoned on the side the provocative words "Staffed by Nurses". You can find his post here, and I strongly suggest reading it before continuing.
This post will be a response to that attention-gathering ambulance. When I first saw the picture of the ambulance, I wasn't quite sure what to say. So I let my thoughts stew for a while before I decided to write this blog.
On his blog, Mr. Kaiser asks, "Does anybody see anything wrong with that picture?" And my answer is YES! I do see something wrong with that picture. Now, before I go into detail, let me clarify a couple of things: first of all, I have absolutely no problem with nurses. Have I met nurses that made me a little... worried? Yes! But I've met paramedics that have made me nervous as well. It all comes down to individual skill and knowledge. There are good paramedics and good nurses, and bad paramedics and bad nurses. At the end of the day, I'm not biased against any one group or profession and I even plan on getting my BSN once I'm finished with paramedic school.
The thing I see that's most wrong with this picture is that we, as a profession, have allowed the phrase "Staffed with Nurses" to imply that better care is being given to that ambulance's patients than what would be delivered by a paramedic truck. This isn't to imply that paramedic-RN teams aren't great, but to reaffirm that paramedic-staffed trucks are not inferior to RN-staffed ambulances. Unfortunately, at the end of the day, the anonymous ambulance manager person or AAMP (as Mr. Kaiser refers to him or her), is going to do the sound business tactic of trying to make his service appear better than the others; and unfortunately, the state of our profession is such that the general public really IS under the notion that better care will be delivered by a nurse than a paramedic.
What does this say about paramedics and EMS everywhere? That we've been lazy. We've become content with putting in our hours, going home, and trying to make the best out of the situation we've gotten ourselves into. We've accepted the fact that EMS pay doesn't come close to what it should be, and that the majority of the public (and even other healthcare professionals) view us as mere "ambulance drivers" and we've simply stopped trying to fix the problem.
If people will look at that service's slogan and truly believe that since that ambulance is "Staffed by Nurses" they're receiving better care than they would from us, it should be a wake up call to everyone in EMS to get out there and promote their profession. And what better time to get animated about EMS than just before National EMS week?
Here's the deal, our patients don't know who we are or what we do. Half of the healthcare industry doesn't know who we are or what we do. And the situation's gotten dire, to the point that marketing our stupidity is actually a sound business tactic. This is the time for us to take action, not to bash on nurses or anyone else in the healthcare industry, but to get out there and educate our communities and our local hospitals about EMS. Until they know just what a paramedic is, nobody will ever get excited when they see an ambulance that reads "Staffed by Paramedics".
So as National EMS Week approaches, I encourage you all to come up with a plan of action. Go out there and spread your message to the public, let them know who we are, let them know what we are, and let them know that there's no better person to have in the back of an ambulance than someone who's patch reads EMT-P. Even if it's just one person, a friend or family member that isn't involved in EMS and doesn't know a whole lot about us; take some time this National EMS Week and educate them on who the real "ambulance drivers" are.
And to my fellow paramedic students, there's no reason why we shouldn't participate as well. In just a few short months, each of us will have a gold patch as well, along with all of the responsibility that comes with it. Let's not think that we should have to wait until we're paramedic certified to begin taking a role in our profession's many problems, after all, we're all EMTs and that makes EMS ours as well. So what can we do as a class to highlight our profession as National EMS Week comes around? Maybe this would be a good time to take a class field trip and represent ourselves, our college, and our profession.
Let the truth about us spread like wildfire throughout the nation.
11 hours ago