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?

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