First Arriving Network
Powered by the First Arriving Network,Reaching 1M+ First Responders Worldwide


What’s in a name?

Everything, apparently.

Over at the JEMS Magazine Facebook page, they apparently link to my posts fairly frequently. And whenever they do, the indignant remarks about the title of my blog usually far outnumber the reasoned comments about the content therein.

Every post, without fail, there’s an avalanche of “ZOMG! I went to school  for [insert length of curriculum here] to learn how to do questionably beneficial stuff without really knowing why, and I didn’t give up a rewarding career in the fast food service industry just to be called an AMBULANCE DRIVER! You suck, JEMS!”

Yeah, and Dr. Evil didn’t go to evil medical school for 12 years just to be called Mister Evil, either.

Rarely do I see any of these comments here, so my guess is that the commenters never read any further than the title of the blog. In fact, they usually direct their righteous indignation toward JEMS and not me, thus confirming their precarious hold on the lower rungs of the reading comprehension ladder.

Evidently, there’s a good reason most publishers write their EMT textbooks at the 8-10th grade reading levels. To such an audience, a lengthy discourse in the use of satire in my blog title is an exercise in futility.

Likewise, explaining to people why a paramedic blogs about guns, politics, and fatherhood just demonstrates that some people can’t grasp that the title of my blog is “A Day In the Life of an Ambulance Driver.”

Not all of my days involve thwarting natural selection on my ambulance. Sometimes, those days involve shooting. Or musing about politics. Or camping with my kid. Or hanging out with my tribe at blogger shoots and EMS conferences. Or shooting off my mouth about whatever the hell I please, when it comes right down to it.

In the first couple of years of this blog, I got quite a few private e-mails questioning my choice of blog titles. Invariably, they’d start by saying how much they liked what I had written, how entertaining or inspirational or educational they found my blog, but…


“AD, you’re an experienced paramedic,” they’d chide. “Surely you understand our struggle to be recognized as a true healthcare profession! How can you, of all people, call yourself an ambulance driver? It’s demeaning and disrespectful!”

To those people, my response is usually, “Splintered wood and mineral fragments may rupture my skeletal structure, but nomenclature does not impair me.”

Because, you know, we also have to use highfalutin’ language in order to be taken seriously.

Once upon a time, I was one of those medics who used to bristle at being called an “ambulance driver.” With the nurses, I’d usually respond with “ass wiper.” If it was a respiratory therapist, I’d call them “snot jockey.”  Cops were “donut receptacles.” Non-EMS firefighters were “hose monkeys.

If it was a doc, I’d ask what it was like to be practicing medicine when penicillin was discovered.

“Ambulance driver!” I’d chortle with exaggerated mirth. “Good one, Doc! So tell me, what was Galen really like in medical school?”

And all those snappy comebacks only succeeded in making me look like an insecure ass.

I no longer correct people when they call me an ambulance driver, for the same reason I don’t sign my name Kelly Grayson, AAS, NREMT-P, CCEMT-P, ACLS RF, PALS RF, BLS TCF, EMS I/C, Farmedic I, NREMT QA, BEMS QIM, AMLS I, GEMS I, PEPP I, PHTLS I, NRP, HMFIC, BMOC, AEIOU and sometimes Y, recipient of Mrs. Sanders’ 3rd grade gold star award for an especially spiffy crayon drawing of a duck, author, columnist, raconteur, studmuffin:

Because to laypeople, all of those things are meaningless designations, and to the people whose opinions matter, it only makes me look like an officious ass with the occupational equivalent of Little Man’s Syndrome.

If you’re an EMT, be you a sparky, inexperienced rookie or a grizzled veteran, who gets all butt hurt about being called an ambulance driver, consider this:

Respect can never be demanded, only earned.

90% of the patients who call you an ammalance drivah do so for one reason and one reason only – because you do indeed drive the big horizontal taxi. If they’re the type to call you for a hangnail in the wee hours of the morning, or fake abdominal pain to get a free pregnancy test at the ER, they’re not interested in your capabilities.

They want a ride, period. You’re it.

The other 10% of your patients are pretty easy to spot, because they usually preface their chief complaint with some variation of “I feel so silly for calling y’all, but I just didn’t know what else to do.”

Those people may well represent a teachable moment, an opportunity to teach the public about our capabilities. And when that moment arises, their education would be better served by couching your words in gentle humility, and letting your actions demonstrate your skills and professionalism.

Offer them a blanket if they’re cold. Take a few extra seconds to fetch a pillow. Treat their MI with calm competence. Gently coach them through their anxiety attack. Administer what you can to relieve their pain. Sit beside them and hold their hand if they’re scared. Be solicitous to their worried loved ones.

Rather than shout, “You must respect mah authoritah!” like Eric Cartman, instead strive to be the island of calm in the sea of turmoil. People respect that, and will naturally look to you for leadership.

In short, be a professional caregiver, with emphasis on the care.

Believe me, they’ll come to see you as far more than just an ambulance driver.

And if you demonstrate with your medical care that you are indeed a professional worthy of respect, the other medical professionals will treat you that way, regardless of the patch on your shoulder or the number of initials after your name.

If people who should know better still call you an ambulance driver, it is because they choose to remain ignorant or disdainful. Arguing with such assholes only gives them the power to make you look like an asshole, too.

And really, why should the opinion of someone like that matter to you anyway?

Comments - Add Yours

  • wvmedicgirl

    You did it again! You have an uncanny way of putting great thoughts into words (don't let that go to your head…) This is a great post to learn from, remember, and (if you don't mind) share. Thanks again for all the great posts.

  • Old_NFO

    AD- Good post as usual; and yes, respect is ALWAYS earned by actions, NOT by the title or money or the car you drive, etc… More people need to learn that

  • hilinda

    I had noticed that about posts there as well.
    It's a drag. Both because it's meaningless and annoying, and because it prevents intelligent comment. And, I suppose, because it is a reminder of what “average” is.
    Enjoyed this post. I'm having a spate of days where I am faced with a bunch of people who are involved in emergency services for all the wrong reasons and it kinda gets me down. Good to know there are some out there who really get what this is about. Care.

  • Sewmouse

    Would really like to see a picture of the spiffy duck drawing.

    (Great post. Excellent point about the “letters” thing. Still wanna see the duck.)


    Evidently, there’s a good reason most publishers write their EMT textbooks at the 8-10th grade reading levels. To such an audience, a lengthy discourse in the use of satire in my blog title is an exercise in futility.


  • becobb


  • David Frye

    thoroughly enjoyed the post

  • Nancy T

    Excellent! This is so true. I have always said, your there to do a job, be the best at what you do and treat your patients with respect. There are still a good handful of good people out there in this world. An hour of your time can make a lifetime of difference with someone else. Then, when your back at the garage you can then tease each other about being ammulace drivah's! LoL Or how I should wear a patch of my drivers license on my sleeve instead on a NYC medic patch! LoL Very well said. Thanks for the post, hopefully some gung ho buff rookies out there will read it and put some thought into it!

  • Jon M.

    I commented on Facebook.

    Ambulance Drivers UNITE. :-)

  • Mini Medic

    “When you get behind the wheel of that ambulance, you hold the lives of you, your crew, and your patient in your hands.”

    Puts the whole “driver” bit in perspective, don'tcha think?

    You may not physically touch that patient, but you still have an impact on their health. (Like warning the back about impending bumps and kamikazee deer.)

    My own father made an “ambulance driver” comment when I voiced an intrest in becoming an EMT-Basic. Years later, after medic school and numerous family emergencies, he's changed his tune. Especially when it came to interepting ER room monitors. =D

  • librarygryffon

    Back when I was in library school, lo these many years ago, another library school had a student fund raiser, which was selling t-shirts with a “Top 10 reasons why I became a librarian”. It included “I love to alphabetize”. *I* thought it was hysterical, but there were an amazing number of indignant letters to American Libraries complaining about it, and how it demeaned the profession. I felt those complaints merely proved that the complainers were not themselves sure that we really were one. If we were secure in thinking we were a “profession” we wouldn't care. I've seen similar “demeaning” things done by med school and law school classes, and no says it makes medicine or the law seem less of a profession.

    If you can't laugh about the misconceptions some of those outside your job have about it, you needs a thicker skin, or a different job. So I love your blog title, but I promise, I never thought of EMTs or paramedics as ambulance drivers. 8)


    AWESOME article, and I love how you put “sticks and stones”.. Love your articles, and I am PROUD to be a 17 year veteran AMBULANCE DRIVER!!! ;o)

  • Nathan

    I got here through a link from JEMS facebook page…and I'm an ambulance driver too….. and proud of it!!!

  • JV

    AD; I totally agree with you. By personal experience, while I was in the military I got my repect way befor got my ranks. But the mayority of the society do not get this concept and personally they never will. We are ignorants until proven otherwise.

  • Ross

    “I feel so silly for calling y’all, but I just didn’t know what else to do.”

    Damn, AD… that was YOU driving the rig? Seriously… I guess I'm not the only one who's said those words, huh.

    As for the title Ambulance Driver… I never did get his name, but the driver (who I assume was a paramedic or EMT) who transported me from Butler County Memorial to Pittsburg Eye & Ear back around August '92 gets mentioned in my prayers frequently. I still remember him swearing at the soccer mom with a station wagon full of groceries who refused to get out of the way of the big white box with the flashing lights… I had an eye injury too severe for them to treat at Butler County – the doc there took one look at me and said, and I quote: “I'm good, but I'm not that good. You're going to Pittsburgh Eye & Ear.”

  • Pingback: Tweets that mention R-E-S-P-E-C-T – A Day In The Life Of An Ambulance Driver --

  • Mainemedic

    Well put brother

  • Duane

    Many of your posts involve you sitting in the right seat dispensing wisdom to Rookie Partner, but then :A Day In The Life Of The Guy Who Sits In The Right Seat Of The Ambulance And Imparts Wisdom To The Callow Rookie” Just doesn't flow as well

  • Dave Konig

    This is awesome on a whole lot of levels. I think it should become Chapter One in all future EMS curriculum that comes out.

  • epijunky

    Honestly, there are more important things to worry about.

    I've been called an ambulance driver more times than I can count, by facility staff, by LEO's, by patients, family members, you name it. I can count on one hand how many times it's been said with malicious intent.


    Small stuff. Most days I AM the one driving the ambulance, anyway.

  • Yogi

    I've been saying 'Stupid is the new normal” for a while now….

    Maybe I should change that to:
    “Stupid is the new average”

    AD, you rock.

  • mickmayers

    You got a gold star for a spiffy duck drawing in third grade? All I got was a “thanks, now go back to your seat.” Nice post, AD. Keep up the good work!

  • Geoffrey

    It could be asked, where is the shame in being an “ambulance driver”? Even if it doesn't encompass the fullness of training and abilities of a given person, why does it have to be taken as a slur? It could be argued that deceptively humble titles born with quiet professional pride and skill tend to instill an awareness of greater depth than previously expected by the public.

    For what it's worth, AD you set an impressive benchmark. Thank you.

  • Amanda

    Well said, AD.

    And along the lines of “said”… that whole “butt hurt” modifier must be a Louisiana thing. Choreboy says it too, and I'd never heard it before I met him. Huh.

  • Kimberly Holloway

    I absolutely love it!! I would, however like to steal it, insert the words “decent human being” in place of ambulance driver, and it would be my life to a “T” as a mechanic.
    I see now where I have gone wrong all these years…trying to keep up with the boys….and then it suddenly dawned on me that I was way AHEAD of the boys and still got ragged on! Because I was “just an aircraft mechanic”. And of course I came back with “but I have (insert various quals here) and I can fix anything!” Only to be laughed at and end up feeling like crap. Now I know better. You are my hero! Now go fix someone!! ;)

  • TexasDad

    Dear AD,

    Off topic, but news that you might enjoy.

    The deputy fire chief in Philadelphia was surprised by an intruder that allegedly broke into his home this afternoon, and he shot her several times with his weapon (don't know if it is a pistol or a long gun).

    I have a buddy who is the DA here, and his term for two drug dealers shooting each other is, “a misdemeanor homicide.”

  • Jim

    If you consider the appelation “Ambulance Driver” in the same sense as “Airplane Driver” then it does a better job of implying the subtle importance of the -driver not screwing up.

    As for alphabet soup, I have a little of it but I'll be damned if I'm going to make my reputation by signing it after my name.


  • Rogue Medic

    Excellent points.

    Where are all of these professionals, when we are pointing out the ridiculously low standards in EMS?

    They would never be on the side demanding that these standards remain low enough for a mole to get over?

    They would never be the ones who consider intubation to be more important than patient outcomes.

    If you take away our intubation, we won't be seen as professionals!

    Yet, it is important to whine about respect.

    Sometimes I sit in the driver's seat. Sometimes I don't. Nothing to get excited about.

  • mizmoose

    Two of the best doctors I ever had were in a practice together. They were more than comfortable being called by their first names. They both said, independently, “I know I went to medical school. I know I'm a doctor. I don't need people to call me “doctor” to know that.”

    I'm sure as women M.D.s they got the usual pile of crap that women doctors got — patients and other staff people assuming they were nurses, being treated as less competent, etc. [Sorry, but it does happen.] They were two outstanding, caring, compassionate, competent medical professionals – and they left their egos behind at work.

    It doesn't matter if you're called “ambulance driver” or “Hey, you!” You know who you are, you know what you do, and I am sure, without ever having been in your care, that you do it well.

    Keep it up, AD. You're one of my heroes. [If just because of your kid :-P.]

  • Old Nurse

    “Just a nurse here” but I whole-heartedly agree with this article. Like Kelly, if I put all of the alphabet-soup after my name does it really change my fundamental occupational purpose? So no, I don't “sign” my name with RN, BSN, MSN, MEd, FAAN, PhD and every educational certification I've ever received. Why? Because unless I'm publishing an article that provides an element of intellectual credibility and “security” to the folks reading it (“She must know what she's talking about because Holy Crap she's got a lot of 'degrees' after her name!!”), fundamentally patients simply don't care-they just want to know if I'm a nurse or not and “by the way, can you get me some [insert narcotic of choice here]?”

    While I'm thinking about it, I'm sick of the “let's take on Washington and lobby for…” Seriously? If we can get 10 people (nurses, EMT's, etc) to agree on ONE correct way to tape an IV we could quite possibly rule the world. But that hasn't and probably won't ever happen because consensus in the medical profession is a hard thing to come by;- everyone has an opinion and unfortunately everyone believes that their way is the best way and if you don't agree… well, succinctly, you're wrong.

  • Pingback: “Respect” – The Handover Blog Carnival – March 2010 Edition | Life Under the Lights()

  • ashleywriter

    You may never see this, AD- I don't know how much you read back through old posts, but I wish it had been an “Ambulance Driver” of your calibre that came to my home on Nov. 03 09. I was 23 years old, with CP like your Katybeth, just moved out of home, flulike symptoms, fever of 102 with no relief from ibuprofen, SOB and tachy at 130. Oh, and calmly explaining “I can't walk over to your ambulance on a good day.”

    The two gentlemen who entered my box filled home diagnosed an “anxiety exacerbation” and told me to go back to bed. I pressed for an ER trip- It was 2 AM, and I couldn't drive, and I knew I was sick.

    Pulse ox of 90 (never checked enroute) was discovered in the ER and some 02 and steriods later I was diagnosed with H1N1 and costochondritis. I'm afraid to call an ambulance now. I only hpe it doesn't bite me someday.

  • Brett Elliott

    Well put but i prefer the label : Emergency Room Transport Facilitator, or 911 Concierge

  • emtsteve13

    New to the blog and am reveling in all that is here. A breath of fresh air when I needed it most.
    I have to tell you when I saw the title of this blog I had quite the opposite reaction, I thought now this is going to be someone with something to say. I am known around here as the old guy whose answer for everything is to ask why did you get into EMS?, It is my response to the Rodney Dangerfields ” I dont get no respect” or why do I have to do transports and especially to that was a BS call. I'm told it too is getting old (and quite annoying by the looks on their faces) So now I think I'll just pointthem in your direction. Great post!

  • emtsteve13

    New to the blog and am reveling in all that is here. A breath of fresh air when I needed it most.
    I have to tell you when I saw the title of this blog I had quite the opposite reaction, I thought now this is going to be someone with something to say. I am known around here as the old guy whose answer for everything is to ask why did you get into EMS?, It is my response to the Rodney Dangerfields ” I dont get no respect” or why do I have to do transports and especially to that was a BS call. I'm told it too is getting old (and quite annoying by the looks on their faces) So now I think I'll just pointthem in your direction. Great post!

  • Fire Daily

    10 bucks for the spiffy duck…..

  • Fire Daily

    10 bucks for the spiffy duck…..

  • Pingback: R-E-S-P-E-C-T | Rogue Medic()

  • Dawn

    ROTFLMAO! Snot jockeys, hose monkeys! I guess I’m an ambulance driver that became an ass wiper, haha! Good thing I’m the ass wiper that can help keep you alive, huh?

  • Pingback: Musings On A Blog Name | A Day In The Life Of An Ambulance Driver()

  • Pingback: Medic Is Not A Bad Word Either | The Social Medic()

  • Jeff EMT/RMT/Daddy

    2 words “well said”

  • Emtkat

    Ahhhh…. I find your blog refreshing! You strip things down to the bare bones, no nonsense perspective. Too often people are stuck in their idea of how “things should be” and no longer deal with the reality of what really is. Respect is not a thing given to someone just because they have the ability to look good on paper. It all comes down to who you are and what you do with it.

  • Carvers2

    Over 18 years of being an ambulance driver, there were many, many times I would rather be the driver than in the back with some of the so called patients we hauled around.  Even though you have to be professional, when a 40 year old male walks to your ambulance in the ice and snow and says he has an appointment the next day at the hospital and doesn’t want to drive his car, it kinda gets in your craw.  The paramedic in the back may be trying to keep someone alive, but the paramedic who is driving because it is his turn has to get them to the hospital safely.  No shame in being called an ambulance driver.

  • A Baby Wambulance Driver

    Thank you for your words! Yes, it’s true! I am an “ambulance driver.” And you know what? I’m proud to be! I pray others will take to your words and -take a chill pill. Yes, I do so much more than drive. It’s ok. Call me what you like. To my partner and my patients, I am important. Now, I don’t know about all of you, but that one thank you (even if all I did was provide a ride and a blanket) makes everything else well worth the effort!
    Thanks AD, you hit the nail on the head!

  • Emt AE

    I don’t see what the deal is about being called a ambulance driver is that what we are. We are professional driver that have a medical degree, save lives and take the BS that some/most patients give. There is no reason to get mad when someone calls you a ambulance driver.

  • Ingrid B.

    Well spoken, Kelly Grayson, and touche!  I wholeheartedly commend you for placing into written form what I’ve been trying to verbally convey for decades.  This article is a masterpiece that should be required reading for every level of EMS class held, in my humble opinion.  Keep on, man.

  • Pingback: Why Johnny Ringo, I’ll Be Your Ambulance Driver | The Social Medic()

  • Pingback: You Must Respect Mah Authoritah! | A Day In The Life Of An Ambulance Driver()

  • Pingback: The WORD, Perception, Emergent Medical Services and Ambulance Drivers | EMS Outside Agitator()

  • Pingback: Rogue Medic()

  • Michael Lockard

    I’ve been in healthcare for 25+ years, and you are preaching the TRUTH!  Great article (and I Tweeted or Twittered or whatever the hell you call it) and linked to my Facebook!  Good Job, and I LOVE the blog name!

  • Pingback: I Know It’s About As Sporting As Clubbing Baby Seals… | A Day In The Life Of An Ambulance Driver()