20 years in EMS and counting.

Some time in the first few days of October 20 years ago I went on my first Ambulance call.  I realized this when I was sent a link to an article about someone else’s 20 years.  However for reasons I cannot understand this person concentrated on the horror they had witnessed in 20 years that would and have ended careers in EMS.   I think if that is what you are going to concentrate on then perhaps you are not doing this, or writing the article for the right reasons.

I prefer to remember the good things of the past 20 years, the reasons I love this profession and still do it on an everyday basis.

  • July 4th 1993  saving a 20 month old that drown in a pool.  then 16 months later receiving a birthday card from the parents with a picture of a happy and healthy 3 year old and the thanks for being a part of it.
  • The various 100 year old plus patients that have shared amazing stories with me of how in their life time they went from traveling by horse to get across town  to being able to fly around the world.   Don’t ever discount these patients,  the ones fortunate enough to be fully lucid can tell you tales that you would gladly listen to for days.
  • Watching my students graduate and go on to be good providers.
  • Having some of my students become some of the best partners I ever had.
  • The day a women asked if my partner and I were so nice because we worked for a Catholic Hospital, and my partner replied,” actually we are both Jewish”
  • The fact that no matter how pissed you were at someone if they called a 10-13( Help)  you showed up along with every ambulance in a 10 mile radius.
  • The day my ambulance got stolen and I called it in and the dispatcher though I said “stalling”   (and the fact that 10 years later I still hear from my new students, “did you ambulance really get stolen?”)
  • The time I had to call a 10-13 and 25 ambulances and 30+ officers in the 103 showed up (perp is currently serving 5-10 years).
  • My partner Louie who after working 30 plus years in EMS would remind me you have never seen it all with a simple statement, ”  Man I ain’t never seen shit like that before”
  • Scaring the shit out of my supervisor by hiding in the backboard compartment and my partner telling him the cabinet was stuck, could he try it.
  • The 1995 wildfires, how not a single house was lost and no one was seriously injured.
  • 9-11  How I received phone calls and e-mails from people I hadn’t seen in years making sure we were all ok.  How EMS came together and supported each other.
  • How the employees of a hospital system that closed years ago (RIP MIH, SJH, SMH, StJ, SVH, SVMH, SVCMC)  still keep in touch and offer support to other hospital EMS systems that are closing.
  • Working holidays in South Jamaica, every call you went on to a house, the family wouldn’t let you leave without a full plate of food.
  • The tough as nails Gang banger who grabbed our bags and said, ” I got your bags just take care of my grams, I’ll do anything you need me to do”
  • The fact that the poorest people seemed to be the most grateful for the help you gave them and always went out of their way to say Thank you.
  • The nurse who reminded me how long I had been doing this by calling me by name over the radio as I called in the 2nd cardiac arrest of the day to the hospital.

And many more that I can’t think of now, I am sure others will remind me.  It’s been an awesome ride, and it ain’t over yet.

When I graduated Medic class I wrote a parody on the sunscreen poem  I had meant it as a bit of a joke, but reading it now it takes on a whole new truth and I stand by it.

Paramedics of the class of 99

Wear PPE

If I could offer you only one tip for the future PPE would be it. The benefits of PPE have been proven by various studies, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience.

Enjoy the power and the beauty of your bus. Oh never mind you will not understand the power and beauty of your bus until you get stuck with a 1980’s gas guzzling, backfiring, faded hanger queen that can’t make it up the hill to the patients house. Or a brand new bus with a bunch of “conveniences” that get in the way and always make the bus break down. The first day you get stuck with this one of these you wish you had your old bus back.

Don’t worry about the late job, or worry but knowing that worrying is as effective as trying to tie down a 350lb combative druggie with ½ in tape. The real problem is those calls that never crossed your mind. The kind that blindside you with a supeona at 4pm on some idle Tuesday.

Do one call every day that frightens you.


Don’t be reckless with other peoples busses, don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours.

Clean up your equipment.

Don’t waste your time on jealously. Sometimes you get the save, sometimes you kill the patient. The race is long and in the end the reaper wins anyway.

Remember the thanks you get, forget the complaints. If you ever get thanks, tell me how.

Keep your old EKG strips, throw away the bloody 4×4’s.

Stretch (the front seat will give you stiff muscles when you sleep).

Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what to do with the patient. Some of the best medics I know have strange cases that don’t fit anything. Some of the worst always do.

Get plenty of sleep. Be kind to you back, your partner will miss you when you throw it out.

Maybe you will get promoted, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll teach, maybe you won’t. Maybe you will go on to be a MD, maybe you will be smart and stay a medic. Your chances are half chance, so are anyone else’s.

Enjoy your stethoscope. Use it every way you can. Don’t be afraid of the type of what other people think of it. It’s the most useful instrument you will ever own.

Eat, even if you have no place to do it but the cab.

Listen to your partner’s advice even if you don’t follow it. Don’t read salary surveys it will only make you feel even more unappreciated.

Get to know the old timers. You will never know when they will be gone. Be nice to your boss, he is the best link to raises, unless you work for the government.

Understand that partners come and go, but with a precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in buses and shifts, because the older you get the more you will need people who knew you when you were sane.

Work in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard.
Work in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft.


Accept certain inalienable truths. Patients will die, People will skell out on ya. You too will skell and when you do you will deny it, and claim you have never lost a patient, or skelled out.

Respect your patients.

Don’t expect anyone else to stock your bus. The last crew may have been good, but you never know when they will skell out.

Don’t mess too bad with the bags or when you get to the call you will never find anything.

Be careful whose war stories you buy, but be patient with those who supply them. War stories are a form of nostalgia, telling them a way of fishing old calls from the garbage, wiping them off and making the person seem like a bigger hero than they are worth.

But trust me on the PPE.