What Characteristics Make a Great Paramedic?

On Confessions of an EMS Newbie, Ron posts his entrance essay for paramedic school, in which he answers the question, “What are the traits and characteristics of a great paramedic?”

One of the traits he lists is likeability, which he sums up thusly:

“A big part of being likeable is the ability to communicate the compassion, sympathy and knowledge I’ve mentioned previously. If you can make people feel good, even when they are in crisis and pain, they are going to like you.”

That’s a big part of it. I know plenty of good paramedics who are very, very skilled. There are some whose skills and knowledge I would rate above my own. When someone’s life is on the line, they’re the ones you want.

Problem is, many of those same medics suck at the everyday, boring runs that comprise 90% of EMS calls. They act as if such runs are beneath them and their superior knowledge and skills, and it shows in their attitude. They’re just not likeable people.

In the movie Patch Adams, Robin Williams tells Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s character, “You know, I forget how young you are, Mitch… that you have to be a prick to get things done… and that you actually think that’s a new idea.”

Some of the most talented people in EMS are like Mitch. You see it in their interaction with patients, to the tee shirts they wear off-duty. You know, the ones that say, “Paid to save your ass, not kiss it.”

But those people are merely good. They’re not great medics. The great medic is the total package. I’ve said it before in a post some years back:

If you can be the island of calm when the feces strike the thermal agitator, and keep your wits about you when everyone else is losing theirs…and then turn right around on the very next call and do nothing more than gently hold a frightened old lady’s hand on the way to the hospital and perhaps coax a smile from her…and realize that BOTH are equally important skills…then THAT is what makes a great medic. Even if they never saved a single life.

So, what in your mind makes a great medic? What traits do they all share? Go to Confessions of an EMS Newbie and tell us what you think.