I have totally immersed myself into the Twitter world, and for the last couple of days I have engaged in some great conversations with some great people. Today, I got into a discussion about a few different topics, but my favorite was professionalism, and our image in the public eye with TheRoadDoctor, Rescue_Monkey, CKEMTP, and In_The_City. I was working at the time, and it was really hard for me to put my phone down. Many great points were made, about how many parts of the industry reward mediocrity, and how there is a “just good enough” attitude, rather than people being driven and motivated to go above and beyond. Was this how people really are, or as In_The_City put it, is our perceived apathy a “learned behavior” taught to us by poor role models?

I have a feeling that throughout this discussion, I shared a lot of “head nods” with my colleagues as the great points summed up in 140 characters or less flew across the Internet from Twitter to Twitter. It got me thinking though, what steps can we take to be more professional?

Professionalism starts before you punch in. One of the things that TheRoadDoctor and I agree on is that like it or not, the public is watching us, and our appearance definitely shapes the opinion that colleagues and the general public has of us.

The first thing that every provider in the industry can do to take a step towards being more professional is simply stopping in front of that mirror before walking out the door. How does that uniform shirt you’re wearing look? How are your boots and shoelaces doing? Is it time for a relacing or a polish? Guys, are you up to your department’s grooming standards? Girls, how’s that hair look?

Next, grab a quick breakfast. Don’t rely on that early morning *Insert greasy breakfast sandwich of your choice.* Go in on a full stomach. Its rather refreshing.

Finally, be on time. Walk up to that time clock when you’re supposed to, or even better, early. Tardiness is a huge pet peeve of mine. I’m ready to go when I’m supposed to be, and lets face it, most of the time, you’re relieving someone. Eventually, you’re going to be relieved as well. You want them to be on time, right?

You can’t always make everyone happy Remember, we get to see most people at their absolutely worst. People might not always be totally friendly to us. We’ve all dealt with that irritated elderly patient, or people that are just plain rude. Remember, in just a little while they’re not going to be your problem anymore.

Its much easier to say to someone “I’m sorry you’re having a bad day.” Rather than having to sit across from your Supervisor and explain your actions when the complaint comes in. Trust me, the “He was rude to me first” argument doesn’t fly. Think BEFORE you speak, and when you’re pulling away from where ever you dropped the patient off, feel free to share with your partner how frustrated you were with that last patient.

How’s that truck look? Is it ready to go? Are your bags secure, and your gear checked and where you like it? There’s nothing more embarrassing than fumbling for that 4×4, or trying to track down just a few more Dots to do that first 12 lead of the day. Also, is the outside clean? Think how it will look on the 11 o’clock News when that camera has the shot of the back of your truck, and one of your prankster coworkers has written “WASH ME” in the grime on your back doors.

Also, after each call, take those extra couple of minutes to make sure the back of the truck is nice and tidy. Lots of people will see it on your shift: patients, other crews, people from other agencies, put yourself and your truck forward as the best in the fleet.

Set the standard, don’t be made the example This is the single biggest thing to remember. Do you want to be standing in the bay with your Supervisor and colleagues and having him rip you a new one, and pointing out to everyone “how bad Tina and Bill’s truck looks” its an embarrassing situation, to say the least.

Push to be the one who sets the standard. Be able to say to your colleagues, and those who you train “if I can do it, so can you.” What do I mean by this? Be a leader. Clear and grab that call for someone who has to go home, or offer to help that other crew move the bariatric patient off their stretcher. You might not see the fanfare, and the chances that someone will throw a ticker tape parade for you down Main St USA is kind of slim, but those around you might see what you’re doing and be inspired to pay it forward.

Those are just a few easy things that everyone can do every day to help show pride in their job, and put themselves out there as a professional. I’m sure you have all heard most of this before, but sometimes we need a reminder, or some of you might say “wow, Scott, you nailed that one, I never thought of it that way.” If we can all show each other just one way to improve our personal image, the improvement that we see industry wide will be huge. I would love to hear some other ideas from you, the reader, so please feel free to share.

We all want to feel respected by everyone around us, and what we need to remember is that respect is not just given to us. It must be earned, and until we take ourselves seriously, how can we expect anyone else to?

Ultimately, what EMS needs at every level now is leaders and role models who are willing to step forward and set the example for how things SHOULD be. Are you one of those people? Well, step up. Lets see it!