Pearls: 30 things EMS providers should know - Administration and Leadership - @

Pearls: 30 things EMS providers should know

Stuff you gotta know


Thom Dick | From the December 2009 Issue | Wednesday, December 2, 2009

It's 0750 hours, and you've been up all night. You're in agony because you made arrangements to meet your mortgage broker at 10 to sign a final offer on a home. It's perfect for you: affordable, close to work, in excellent condition and right in the middle of your service area, where you can keep an eye on it. It came on the market only a couple of weeks ago, and you're sure it will be gone if you don't snatch it. But there's no sign of your relief, and now you're getting toned for chest pain.

You always arrive early to keep this from happening to the crews on other shifts. But June simply won't reciprocate; she consistently shows up at 0759 or so, barely on time to clock in.

EMS is a wonderful thing to do with your life, but no matter who you work for, it's a business you need to get away from routinely. All of life is about balance, Life-Saver, and that EMS piece is no exception.

There's a legendary old paramedic named Les Federoff in Bonita, Calif., where I used to work. Les is a legend because he has a knack for calmly reducing thorny issues down to simple observations in about the time it takes you to pass a methane bubble.

He's the one who coined expressions like "System Status Irritants" to describe troublemakers who force their bosses to do their jobs. "Karmacide," to describe the stupid things you say when the night's aheadƒlike, "We're going to sleep all night," and "karmacillin," to describe the practice of not saying stupid things. Les was my partner for a few years, and we had way more fun at work than we were supposed to.

Following is a list of 30 things we came to believe when we were partners:

  1. People don't change.
  2. Some of the most beautiful people in the world come wrapped in the plainest packages.
  3. You can stir up as much trouble as you need to. Just make sure you do it only to make things better, your care is always top-notch and your certs are always up to date.
  4. You may be a medical genius. But sometimes it's your job to just take people to the hospital.
  5. Never plan anything until after noon on the day after a 24-hour shift.
  6. People make stuff up, sometimes.
  7. This is medicine we're doing here.
  8. There are two kinds of leaders in EMS: good ones, and those who spend just enough time in the field to realize they hate it -- then presume that qualifies them to lead those who don't.
  9. It's not enough to be nice. You have to be competent and nice.
  10. There's a very good reason why you've never met a dual-role surgeon.
  11. The genius who first presumed that one person could do two full-time jobs at once was an administrator who meant some other person.
  12. Liars lie -- that's why we call 'em liars.
  13. A whole lot of stuff is funnier than you think.
  14. Paramedics get lied to for a living. There's only one thing dumber (sic) than lying to one, and that's lying to a whole room full of them at once.
  15. Anybody can be a former paramedic. All you have to do is quit.
  16. Never do anything you know is stupid (especially if the person who tells you to do it is stupid).
  17. You can break bad rules, especially if you're funny.
  18. Your life insurance company wants you to be in perfect health, because that means you can keep on paying premiums. They don't care if you're happy.
  19. The concept of fear is not discussed in any EMS text. That's too bad, because fear is a component of all suffering.
  20. What's right is not always popular; what's popular is not always right.
  21. People who cut corners eventually find themselves running around in circles.
  22. If most people were smart, we would be unemployed.
  23. Be nice to people on your way up. You may meet them again on your way back down.
  24. If the patient tells you they're about to die, they're probably right.
  25. Nothing in the EMS curriculum makes us judges.
  26. We should probably listen about twice as much as we talk.
  27. People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care.
  28. If you're tired of taking care of poor, old, dirty, naked sick people, take a rest. Do something else.
  29. Your ambulance is a machine that can either earn you a living or kill you on any day of your career. It probably deserves your respect.
  30. A partner who tells you not to worry about their driving because they "can handle it" most likely isn't so sure. Maybe you'd better take the keys. JEMS

Connect: Have a thought or feedback about this? Add your comment now
Related Topics: Administration and Leadership, Leadership and Professionalism, Operations and Protcols, Thom Dick, EMS tips, EMS pearls of wisdom, Jems Tricks of the Trade

Author Thumb

Thom Dick

has been involved in EMS for 43 years, 23 of them as a full-time EMT and paramedic in San Diego County. He's currently the quality care coordinator for Platte Valley Ambulance, a hospital-based 9-1-1 system in Brighton, Colo. Contact him at


What's Your Take? Comment Now ...

Buyer's Guide Featured Companies

Featured Careers & Jobs in EMS

Get JEMS in Your Inbox


Fire EMS Blogs

Blogger Browser

Today's Featured Posts


EMS Airway Clinic

Innovation & Advancement

This is the seventh year of the EMS 10 Innovators in EMS program, jointly sponsored by Physio-Control and JEMS.
More >

Multimedia Thumb

Glendale Firefighters Suspended for Punching Patient

Excessive force was used on a combative patient.
Watch It >

Multimedia Thumb

Vancouver Chemical Fire Causes Major Response

Hazmat incident sends smoke over port neighborhood.
Watch It >

Multimedia Thumb

Salt Lake City Firefighters Injured in Firehouse Fire

Nine sent to a hospital with smoke inhalation.
Watch It >

Multimedia Thumb

Pennsylvania Paramedic Killed in the Line of Duty

West End Ambulance medic killed at accident scene.
Watch It >

Multimedia Thumb

Plane Skids off Runway at LaGuardia Airport

Delta flight stops just short of Flushing Bay
More >

Multimedia Thumb

Rigs Going in Service from EMS Today 2015

Snap shots of some of the vehicles at EMS Today that will be on the streets soon
More >

Multimedia Thumb

Field Bridge Xpress ePCR on iPad, Android, Kindle Fire

Sneak peek of customizable run forms & more.
Watch It >

Multimedia Thumb

Braun Ambulances' EZ Door Forward

Helps to create a safer ambulance module.
Watch It >

Multimedia Thumb

VividTrac offered by Vivid Medical - EMS Today 2013

VividTrac, affordable high performance video intubation device.
Watch It >

Multimedia Thumb

The AmbuBus®, Bus Stretcher Conversion Kit - EMS Today 2013

AmbuBus®, Bus Stretcher all-hazards preparedness & response tool
Watch It >

More Product Videos >