Being a paramedic isn’t about flashing lights and blaring sirens. It isn’t about big shiny trucks, wearing a badge and a uniform, or working with firefighters. It’s not about driving seventy miles an hour. These are all things that many an aspiring paramedic dream of–and I’m not exempt–but I am sure that they all lose their novelty eventually.
These are not the reasons I want to be a paramedic. Saving lives is one, but it’s not the only one. If it was, I don’t think I would last long in ambulance work. I wouldn’t even be interested in it for long, because savings lives isn’t everything being a paramedic is about. It is a part of it, and a large part at that, but it is not the only part. It’s just as much about easing suffering as it is saving lives.
Paramedics intervene at the most important time for injured people–as soon as possible. They are on call 24/7, so that when someone needs help, they can give it. Whether this means performing CPR or holding a hand, I won’t know until I arrive on scene. I never know what situation I might be thrown into, or how I will be helping somebody.
That said, I might miss dinner because someone’s grandma stubbed her toe, or I might be woken up at three in the morning because a kid fell out of bed from a nightmare. There are going to be calls that are a complete waste of time, where people are just abusing the system. And I’m sure I will hate it.
But I might miss dinner because someone’s grandma went into sudden cardiac arrest, or I might wake up at three in the morning because someone’s kid fell and hit his head–and now he’s not waking up. These aren’t wastes of time. These aren’t people abusing the system. These are real emergencies, where paramedics make a real difference–and often, the only difference.
There are a lot of parts to a paramedic’s job that make it what it is. There’s the emergency medical part of it–which takes up the majority of the job. But there is also rescue work (like extracting victims from vehicles at a car wreck) and public safety (educating and taking preventative measures to ensure public safety in the event of a mass casualty incident or disaster). Both of these aspects appeal to me. What other career can you work in the field and also help prevent future calamities? Not many.
Paramedic may not be viewed as a profession like being a nurse or a police officer is. It may even seem like a job one does during college. For some people, it is. It’s merely step towards a higher goal. But to others, it is so much more.
To me, it is a new frontier. A chance to grow with the field. A place where I can make a direct difference within my community (whether I live here or in another state). A mixture of everything I want in a career.
The flashing lights and sirens aren’t even the wrapping on the package–they’re the tag. Inside, there’s a chance to take the most painful human existence and make it less so. Make it more bearable. Give help and hope when no one else can. Showing up when no one else will come. (Yes, Grandma, even if I miss dinner.)
Still lingering is the public image of paramedics as ‘the people who drive the ambulance’. But this is not so. The days of the big dumb ambulance drivers are gone. In their place are intelligent medical professionals. They drive the ambulance, yes, but they are also running a mini-Emergency Room in the back of their ambulance with every call.
The importance of paramedics is, I believe, becoming more apparent in the public eye. They save lives with tools, skills, and knowledge that otherwise are not readily available to the public. Let’s all face it–doctors don’t make house calls any more. That’s a paramedic’s job. It’s a difference I want to make, it’s a difference I can make, and–most importantly–it’s a difference I will make every day I go to work.
There is a saying in medicine, “We may cure seldom, but we can relieve often, and we should comfort always.” Whether I make a difference by curing someone’s illness or injuries, relieving their pain, or comforting them on their way out, it doesn’t matter. Because of me, someone’s worst day will be a little bit better.
Paramedic is not just a dream. It is a goal. It is an aspiration. And it’s what I want to be when I grow up.