Sunday, March 14, 2010

My Father Was An Ambulance Chaser - Part 2 March 2010


It didn't take long, working as an Emergency Medical Technician, and doing 
only Basic Life Support, to realize that paramedics only haul patients

 . . .whereas EMTs have to carry them UPSTAIRS!
EMTs are often called by the hospitals
to return patients to their homes upon discharge.

Not only the patients, but the gurney they lay on, all the flowers and plants,
books and magazines, balloons and clothes they accumulate while in the hospital.
This fact alone was enough to get me looking at paramedic schools in the 
San Francisco Bay Area.

I chose the Stanford University Prehospital Care Program in Palo Alto, CA.
I interviewed, tested, auditioned, was accepted, and began
2 years of absolute hell.
I memorized algorithms, drugs, treatment protocols, anatomy and physiology, 
and endured daily testing followed by weekly exams.

Every one of us turned into stress monsters and
we lost about 25% of the class before it was all said and done.

This was followed by months of clinical training in hospital ERs, 
Labor and Delivery, The Morgue, and any other venue they could find which would 
provide a broader and richer educational experience for us.

This was then followed by months of internship on an actual ambulance with real paramedics.

Interns are expected to: 
  • Run every call and be excruciatingly critiqued afterward (WHAT WERE YOU THINKING!)
  • Carry ALL the equipment (airway bag, EKG monitor and defibrillator, trauma bag, drug box, C-spine) on calls - think mule
  • Monitor and answer all county radio traffic (Rescue 30 copies, county, show us enroute to the freeway for the man strolling through traffic saying he's Jesus)
  • Clean quarters, stations, ambulance and restock (vacuum, mop, wax on - wax off)
  • Not snore (snoring interns got pummeled by skanky coworker boots)
  • Cook (gourmet meals that would inevitably be eaten cold hours later)
  • And spend every downtime minute studying (In the event your Preceptor-From-Hell might wake you at 4 AM to have you recite every pertinent piece of information regarding Atropine Sulfate)
I had the great and good fortune of doing my internship with a local 
Marin County Fire Rescue Squad where they treated me like a princess. . .

. . .and I learned how real paramedics do the job.

  • Passing the state EMS testing processes
  • Getting everything licensed and certified
  • Getting an actual paramedic job!  OMG!
  • Jumping through yet more county hoops
  • Yet another qualifying 5-call process.
  • First day on the job - just shoot me now.
 All cartoons are the brilliant work of the funniest paramedic
in the business - Steve Berry


  1. Some attorneys chase the ambulances. Some of us defend. Such an exceptional profession. But I really appreciate your description of your EMS life.

  2. Wow, no wonder we hardly heard from you in those days!

  3. I have the utmost respect for EMT's. I was in the news biz and interacted with them for several years at various incidents. They are dedicated professional people who do not get the kudos they deserve.

  4. I now have a deeper appreciation and respect for paramedics and EMT's. God bless them all! :D

  5. Thanks, Tancho and Leslie. Tancho is right, few people really know what paramedics do, unless they've had the misfortune of having to meet us.
    Nice words, Leslie, firefighters are heros, cops are brave, but paramedics get lost in the shuffle.
    More to come.

  6. Hola.
    Encontre tu blog por casualidad (gracias a una amiga EMT).

    Me parecen sumamente interesantes el par de historias de los servicios.

    Saludos desde la capital de Mexico.
    Tierra del nopal :)

  7. Hola Tierra del Nopal!
    Muchas gracias por leer y comentar en mi blog, es bueno saber de usted en el DF. ¿Trabaja usted en la ambulancia en el DF?
    Gracias por sus amables palabras.
    Manténgase al día, más por venir muy pronto.