EMS as a Profession, or a Hobby?
I’m a touch late to the party on this one, but here it is anyway. Just some quick background: Over at The EMS Patient Perspective a post was put up asking the question: Now That Doctors Specialize in EMS, Shouldn’t We? This title refers, of course, to the recognition of EMS as a subspecialty by the American Board of Medical Specialties. The venerable Skip Kirkwood weighed in on the topic and prompted the Rogue Medic to chime in. Take a moment to check out those posts and come on back.
Now the comment of Skip’s that was quoted in the Rogue Medic post is as follows:
Before we can get to specialize and sub-specialize, we have to have a PROFESSION to begin with.
So what is a profession? One definition is “a calling requiring specialized knowledge and often long and intensive academic preparation.” That, we are emphatically NOT…We have high-school or at best trade school education. We have no distinct body of knowledge. We resist education and entry standards. We are, as a nationwide body (in the U.S.), someplace between a hobby and a trade or vocation. Profession? I wish, but I don’t think so.
Bold statement right? But is he really that far off base? How many EMS practitioners are multitaskers? How many aspire to be multitaskers? How many are looking beyond EMS to the next big thing? A good number right?
For that matter, how rigorous are our education standards? How many people ACTUALLY fail an EMT or paramedic program. Honestly, we created a system where you basically write your check and get your license.
What about the opposite approach: How many EMS practitioners are content to work in the prehospital arena for the rest of their careers and not include rescue, fire suppression, law enforcement, haz mat, etc. in their job description. Now think about how you responded to that. Did you think “I’d never want to be only an EMT/paramedic!”? That’s the problem. We’ve never thought of EMS as a place we’d want to spend our whole careers. Like Skip says, we’ve never seen it as a profession ourselves. Why should we expect other to see us that way. As said in the original post, we’re the one’s running calls every day, why is it that the physicians overseeing us are specializing in something we don’t take enough pride in to make it a profession?
So this is your call to arms: EMS Week is fast approaching. Just to remind you, EMS Week is sponsored by the American College of Emergency Physicians. Are we sensing a theme here? We don’t care enough about our jobs to host our own appreciation week. The theme this year is “EMS: More than a job. A calling”. I propose something a bit different. Figure out one thing you can do to make EMS more than a job. Figure out one thing you can do to make EMS a profession. Take a continuing education class you aren’t required to. Read an article from an actual peer reviewed journal. Hold your coworkers to higher standards. Make you sure actually look and act professional when you come into work. Be proud of your chosen profession. Seek out those who are doing good things in EMS and get involved. But don’t continue to treat your career like your hobby.
What do you plan to do to help make EMS a profession? Let me know in the comments.