This last week I had my very first day of early field internship, working solely as an EMT-B on the truck. The idea behind early internship is to give us humble students a chance to hone our BLS skills before we jump right into ALS--and, really, it's a great concept. Most of us have never worked on an EMS service, and those that have may have been out of the business for a while and forgotten some of the basics of ambulance operations and patient care. In addition, it takes care of the observational phase of internship; which, for us, consists of an observation phase, a team member phase, and finally a team leader phase.
My shift went great, and I learned a LOT about talking to patients--which is a lot harder than you'd think. I was allowed to do patient assessments, gather history, and function as a BLS member of the team. Both of my partners were great guys, and extremely knowledgeable to boot. The lieutenant I rode with was actually the most senior member of the service, unfortunately I feel like I could have done more to take advantage of his wealth of information and learn more from him. But it was day one, and I'm still acclimating myself to the experience. The next shift, I'll be more prepared for and I already have a list of questions to ask in mind.
As I continue through early field internship, I'll be sure to share with you my thoughts, experiences, and findings. Today, however, I'd like to talk about something else; something we all must deal with, and something that I, as I've delved deeper into the realm of EMS, have had to adjust my habits to maintain:
Yeah, I know. We've heard this from day one of EMT-B and it hasn't stopped since. But are we doing as much as we can and should to maintain a professional air about our profession? First of all, where does professionalism begin? When we put on our uniforms? When we step foot outside of our homes? When we arrive on scene? I believe (as I know others do as well) that professionalism never ends, that it is something we must maintain constantly and vigilantly throughout our lives; from the very first time we step foot into an EMT class.
Every EMT and paramedic, as we all know, represents the rest of us. They first represent themselves, then their agency, then the entirety of EMS. We shall all be judged by our brothers and sisters within the profession. Yet it seems that far too often we begin to forget that--I know I have. How many of you have said something amongst a group of friends, or on a blog or on Facebook, that in retrospect is not a statement you would want to be associated with a member of our profession? I remember last semester during a progress report with my professor, he mentioned that there were some things I said on my Facebook that weren't entirely appropriate. I went home that evening and went through all of my old posts and, after some careful consideration, deleted all of the ones that I decided were not befitting of a member of EMS.
We all did and said things before we entered EMS that, looking back, we wish we could take back. Even amongst ourselves, we must be careful about what we do and say because, though we may think that we're safe among our peers, they are in fact the ones that will judge us most critically--because they know what does and does not make a good EMT and paramedic. Now, I'm not saying that we can't have our little dark humor, I think that's quite possibly necessary just to survive this job emotionally; but other kinds of jokes, those not meant to help us vent our frustrations but only express our own prejudices and sensibilities, are those that we must critically assess and question: "Is this becoming of an EMS professional?"
Professionalism is something we must always uphold, because we don't stop becoming EMTs and paramedics just because we punch out and go home. We are always representatives of our agencies and our profession, and our patients will remember us as the rude, unkempt, cursing guy they saw the other day at the grocery store; and they will remember us as the polite, well dressed, articulate gentlemen and ladies as well. Our non-EMS friends and family will remember us as we are not on the clock, but off it; and they will judge all EMS personnel they interact with later on down the line by how we present ourselves among them.
In conclusion, today I encourage you all to reassess your level of professionalism in your day to day life; at work and at home. Are there things you could change to improve your own image and the image of EMS? Have you already reached that point where you subconsciously remain in uniform in your speech and behavior even when you're off the clock? If so, great! What about your colleagues? Are there things they do and say that you would not want to be associated with? Become a positive role model for yourself and for them, and don't be afraid to stop them and say "Hey, let's not talk that way--we're paramedics, after all." And if you're like me, and you know you've still got a little ways to go, look for situations today where you can work to improve your professional image.
EMS has been plagued with the belief by others that we are not true professionals, and the truth is that there are pockets of professionalism within our little community as well as pockets of unprofessionalism. So let's do what we can to eliminate those pockets of unprofessionalism, and accept the challenge to prove to ourselves, our colleagues in healthcare, and our communities that we are professionals in every aspect of our lives.