The Hurdles We Must Overcome

I was looking through some old files and articles that I bookmarked, and I found last year’s Career Cast Worst Jobs of 2009. Emergency Medical Technician was ranked as the 6th worst job in the United States using Physical Demands, Stress and Income as criteria. That’s right, everyone, this job that we all love to do, some of us as volunteers, others as our careers, is ranked as one of the worst jobs in the United States. In case you’re curious, Sailor, Taxi Driver (does anyone else find humor here?), Diary Farmer, and Lumberjack were the only jobs that were considered worse then EMT.

So, how in the eyes of the folks at Career Cast, can we improve the Emergency Medical Technician position as a job? Let’s take a look at their criteria:

1. Physical Demands — We are already moving in the right direction here. The physical aspect of EMS is greatly diminished thanks to innovations such as tracked stair chairs, hydraulic stretchers, and AutoPulses. Although there is still some wear and tear, and the necessity to lift will always be there, as an industry, we are doing the best that we can for our people.

2. Stress — Stress will be the hardest piece of this puzzle to improve on. Let’s face it, we see things every day that some couldn’t imagine seeing in a lifetime. The best thing that we can do is afford as many outlets for stress relief for our employees. That could come in the form of increasing the availability of Critical Incident Stress Debriefing, or something as simple as giving our people other outlets for their stress by giving them something as simple as gym membership.

3. Income — With the progression of our field, the expansion of our scope of practice, and better understanding of what we do, Income will improve as well. EMS is still a very young field when compared to the other two branches of public safety. We have come a long way in a very short time, but we still have a long way to go.

Interestingly enough though, in 2009, USA Today ranked Fire Fighting as one of the best most prestigious careers in America. Why is there such a huge difference in opinion when it comes to these two professions that are so frequently molded into one? Does it come down to benefits? Is it the lack of a defined career ladder in EMS? Or is it just the people’s opinion that we are nothing more than Ambulance Drivers?

All is not lost. In England, Paramedics have been voted as the country’s most trusted profession. Where do our brothers and sisters in the other two branches of public safety fall? Not far behind. Policeman was ranked 3rd, and Fireman was ranked 4th. It would be interesting to see how that survey would play out State side.

So what does everyone else think? We’ve gotten into some great discussions recently about refusals and professionalism, so I would love to get some opinions on this topic as well. What can we do as an industry to reduce the Stress and Physical Demands on people working in EMS?