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!


    A clean ambulance is a thing of beauty. Particularly since so many of ours are white!

    And as tedious as inventory is at times, I find it to be a wonderful check of my "do I really know where this is when I need it?"

    But something that I think could be added to your list of professionalisms is training/drilling. Now perhaps I am lucky in a way and work a low call volume area and have time to drill, but it amazes me sometimes when people in this field have no motivation to better themselves. Granted, I am not always the best at setting up drills or staying consistent with them, but its good to go over those things like splinting arms, that rarely used airways adjunct, traction splints, the ever elusive KED, etc. Training keeps us good and being good makes us professional.

  • medic999

    Right then…..
    Soap box? Check!
    Time to stand on it!

    I was talking to one of my colleagues the other day who is about to emigrate to Australia. I said how much I would like to come to America and one of the reasons I said it was that to me (and I know I am really generalising here, as it is more likely to do with the people I know from blogging, tweeting and CoEMS)it seemed that in the states it was seen as an admirable quality to be enthusiastic and professional. Whilst over here, you become that stand out "pain in the arse" because you want everything done right and you want chores to be done before people sit down and put their feet up.
    I dont know what the majority is like over there but there is a fair proportion of staff over here who seem to think that when they are not actually on a job, they are on down time.
    Yes that may be the case sometimes, but other times things need to be done. The vehicle needs stocking, and cleaned; the stores need checking in and what about maybe doing some reading.

    Its not rocket science to be a professional in this job. All you have to do, is do the job properly. Do what is expected of you from your patients. They want to see a caring, competent, professional looking and sounding like they are in their living room because they want to be there and they know what they are talking about.

    Is that really so hard?

  • in_the_city

    I agree with everything you've said. I'm a big fan of what I refer to as "leading through a grumpy but quiet example". I don't tell anyone what I think they should be doing, weather it's washing the truck or restocking the IV tray. I just sigh, grumble quietly to myself and do the jobs left undone. One of the biggest challenges is that it's hard to retrain grown men and women to unlearn sloppy behaviors. They'll often think your putting on airs or insulting them. Short of a beating with a rubber hose I'm not sure how to make people receptive to the idea that they need to change

  • MedicSK

    Mark you're exactly right. It's not hard but I seem to find a common disconnect or lack of attention to detail. Our environment is very different from what I've seen and heard from Justin and his experience with you. Commonly we are viewed as the third wheel of public safety. Fire and PD are on a hot date and we are the little brother they couldn't get the babysitter for.

    In_The_City made a great point some of this is learned behavior because of how we are treated by colleagues and people in other industries. Sometimes it's favorable but many do not understand what we do. I envy you across the pond because my impression is you are a true third piece in the public safety puzzle.

    Like I said before we ALL need to take ourselves seriously and improve our self image as an industry to help us improve our image in the community.


    Great Post SBK. It's sad to think that your list is a "new concept" to many people. I don't know what the cause of all this is. Is it lack of personal integrity and respect? Or that this behavior goes uncorrected for so long, that it becomes the norm? I think that one problem, as odd as it may seem to you and I, is that many people may just not know how to do what you are advocating. It was never modeled in their upbringing, and or they were never taught. I think that something along the lines of your post belongs in a company's or department's S.O.P manual. It is also A very nice dove tail to something I wrote a while back

    I know myself, and believe the rest of the EMS twitter/blogger folk adhere to the same idea of professionalism as you. But I have seen and worked with many who do not. Some examples include: wearing A blue tooth or Ipod ear buds on scene, chewing and spitting tobacco during pt care, texting during transport, and of course untucked shirts and so on.. Like I said, great post my friend

  • Susie Kay

    I hope you will forgive a non-medic joining your conversation. The content of your post and the subsequent discussion really resonated with me. The professionalism issues that you list have been exercising me for quite a while as they extend to almost all sectors of the population. So much so that I have been working with college groups to open up the discussions about how lack of professionalism will hamper their employability. Recent research on your side of the 'pond' and mine shows that employers are really noticing that lack of professionalism in graduates is hampering their hiring ability. As you said, the discussions around professionalism always end up with the question 'Well what is it?' I have tried to answer that in a short book I have written which is just complete and hot off the presses. It is designed to make people think about professionalism in terms of their relationship with and effect on other people, not just how qualified they are. It is called "Professionalism: the ABC for Success" ( I wonder whether this might be useful to you?
    With kind regards
    Susie Kay

  • Anonymous

    I agree with all of this. I also think that a huge portion of being professional on our job is being respectful to fellow responders in a tiered system. I have the rocker, and I don't expect a pd or a fd first responder to look at a pt and understand the difference between difficulty breathing and anxiety. Or a seizure or pseudo-seizure/failure to cope pt. Its an awesome responsibilty to walk on scene and FEEL the weight being taken off someones shoulders because they're being relieved from a responsibility they weren't comfortable with in the first place. There's no need to make anyone feel bad about their treatment decisions or general discomfort with medical calls.

  • Lpm815908

    Well written brief to urge a behavioral change that is the scourge of EMS. Some time it will catch on but it will take a lot of effort and some more incentive.

  • Lpm815908

    Well written brief to urge a behavioral change that is the scourge of EMS. Some time it will catch on but it will take a lot of effort and some more incentive.

  • Bvcsl61

    me parece estupendo la lectura, hay cosas que en el dia a dia se nos pasa con tantas cosas en la cabeza y creo que esta lectura me ayudo a comprender eso, gracias por enseƱar algo nuevo todos los dias

  • Bvcsl61

    I think it’s great reading, there are things in the day to day we are about so many things on my mind and I think this reading helps me to understand that, thank you for teaching something new every day