I’ve Said It Before…

… and I'll say it again:

Respect isn't conveyed with a name.

But in case you EMT's have forgotten, here you go:

**********

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

 

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…

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?

 

  • bobball

    So true, AD. While there is certainly room for better educating the public and our other colleagues in the healthcare (and sometimes public safety) professions about the ins & outs of EMS and EMS providers…rarely is that time during a call.

    For those “during the call” times that something has to be said (like “just drive him to the hospital” from a clinic provider when perhaps airway management or cardioversion should be a little higher on the priority list), we still do far better to dish out some of that respect and politeness in order to receive it.

    Being indignant smells of insecurity.

  • Iowa fan

    AD I ran upon your blog about 4 months ago and spent hours reading through the archives and now check frequently for updates. I can only hope that if and when I ever need the services of a MEDIC or EMT that he is some one of your caliber.

  • Bob Keyes

    Hi, AD

    As a non EMS person (and perhaps worse a ‘Limey’ whose ancestors may have been former colonial oppressors of the peoples of the New World.)

    Could I make one very small suggestion, that if everybody picked up, might just help with the situation. When you arrive on scene, pause, strike a winning pose (like I need to tell you how to do that), and say “Paramedic” or “EMT” as appropriate.

    Don’t rush in and shout the name of the vehicle in which you arrived, it makes absolutely no sense, nobody else does it.

    The Cops don’t race in shouting “POLICE CAR, POLICE CAR”.

    The ‘Water Fairies’ don’t pitch up with the cry of “MASSIVE RED TRUCK, MASSIVE RED TRUCK”

    Perhaps if you fine guys and girls, started to use your proper titles to announce yourselves, it will eventually break the link between the Men and Women that do the good work and the horse they rode in on. That done you could then move on to Phase II.

  • Greg

    There is a fine line between respect and scorn, but I don’t know anyone who disrespects an ambulance driver. The fact is that “ambulance driver” summarizes the job I actually do (and sounds more professional than “couch sitter” which I do a lot on the job, too). Not many people know what an EMT is. “Emergency Medical Technician” takes too long to say. I am not a paramedic, so I am uncomfortable being called one (although I won’t take time to correct someone in an emergency).

    Frankly I spend more time providing medical assistance as a volunteer EMR than I do on the job as an EMT. As an EMR I have been on scene for 45 minutes waiting for an ambulance on a rainy day with a lot of car wrecks. As an EMT I might take 1 set of vitals or collect a list of meds or conduct a brief interview with a relative and then the patient is on the truck and I am… the ambulance driver.

    Finally, I’m proud to drive an ambulance, and I like doing it. It’s no mean trick to drive an 8000 pound truck through traffic or down rough roads as safely, quickly, and comfortably as possible.

background image Blogger Img

Kelly Grayson

Recent Posts

  • For You EMS Types
  • New Podcast!
  • Fool Me Once, Shame On You…
  • Job Satisfaction Is Where You Find It
  • For You EMS Types…

Categories

The Weight Loss Challenge

The Book

The Id of EMS

Old Stuff

Recent Comments