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EMS Reality Show Debut


I’ve recently found myself sucked in by the latest fad in television: programs that showcase some form of talent. I’m overwhelmed by the designs I see on Project Runway, the dishes created on Top Chef and the vocal stylings of American Idol contestants. When I see the young professionals making a cohesive business plan out of cardboard and silly putty on The Apprentice, I arrive at the conclusion that I have no discernible talent. I can’t sew, my cooking skills are minimal, I sing moderately well (in the shower), and I don’t even balance my checkbook. I could no more judge one of these programs than walk across the Sahara. But I do wonder what qualifies the judges of these competitions to critique these men and women? And, what do they use as criteria? I wonder if they agonize over the decision or if it’s as cut and dry as it looks on TV.

All of these things were swirling through my mind the other day while I watched my current class of medic students graduate. While I was watching the slide show of the year’s graduates, I focused on a couple in front of me. A slide was shown of “IV day” with students sticking each other. One close-up was a couple drops of blood coming out of the end of the catheter prior to the tubing being connected.

In my mind, this seemed like something worth teasing an intern about, but otherwise, no big deal. Both people sitting in front of me shuddered and turn to face each other in disgust … over a drop of blood. Is that honestly something that would make someone queasy? I flashed back to the hundreds of times I have heard, “I don’t know how you do what you do. I could never see all those gross things.” I guess paramedics do have an interesting talent.

Now, I turn my focus to the fresh-faced students in front of me with crisp paramedic certifications in their hands and wonder how each would fare if medic school were a competition. What if, out of the 30 students who started, only one could become a certified paramedic? This could get interesting.

They all had such great qualities, and I couldn’t pick amongst them. I decided then and there to be the Ryan Seacrest or Tim Gunn of my fantasy show. I want to interact with the students, give them input and coach them be the best they can be—without having to crush their dreams. Now with my role established, I knew I needed a catch phrase. Add to the list of needs a panel of judges, a set of criteria, written and practical tests, a way to show real-life calls the students ran, cool clips of the auditions, family interviews, a theme song and a goodbye phrase.

Selection Process
Selecting a name wasn’t easy, but eventually I settled on Could You Work on My Family? The task of selecting judges is a bit more daunting. Judges should be well known in their arena and have proven themselves worthy of critiquing new talent. However, with paramedicine, it’s traditionally a regionally based hierarchy. So, what names do we all know in EMS that cross the state borders? Well, the first one is easy: JEMS Editor-in-Chief A.J. Heightman. Who would be more universally recognized as a leader in the field, current on a variety of systems and an incredibly likeable personality?

What about judge number two? I’d pull the celebrity card and ask Nicolas Cage—the only current, well-known actor I can think of who has played the role of a living medic. We need one more. But wait, I have the perfect two judges: Johnny and Roy. We may need to dust off our VHS copies to add to the opening credits the cap popping scene of the Emergency! intro, but I think the nostalgia alone would be worth it. I’ll give the gentlemen a current set of protocols and a technical adviser. Trust me, they’ll be great.

Now we need our criteria. Immediately, memorization of drugs and protocols, having a good working knowledge of disease processes and the body’s response to trauma and attitude come to mind. Who has the drive, determination, work ethic, social skills and personality for the honor of last medic standing? On the more subjective side, we could consider who kept the rig the cleanest and who could name every piece of equipment and its location on the rig blindfolded. The final challenge just may be that very task.

Then, there’s the intangible criteria:
• Who interacts with crews the best?
• Who could we watch on a scene with no volume and know he or she was in charge?
• Who runs their scene with the respect of the crew for their command presence instead of alienating them as a result of a bossy disposition?
• Who remembers the precise vitals of the last patient without referring to notes?
• Who gained the trust of their patient with kind words, professional demeanor and attention to detail?
• Who remembered to go back and say goodbye to the patient who has the blanket wrapped around him, one IV stick, a complete assessment and set of vitals, all belongings accounted for, a thorough turnover to the current provider and a bulletproof patient care report left with the staff?

‘Good’ Bye
Now, the fun part. We could put together a montage of audition tapes and slice in some inevitable still shots of the interns as 3-year-olds with plastic stethoscopes. There will be the few who saved the field trip photos of themselves at the fire station in first grade sitting in the ambulance, and there’s the classic photo of a child on dad’s shoulders watching the parade with the lit-up fire engines.

For family interview excerpts we could zoom in on the proud mother talking about how little Tommy repeatedly dialed 9-1-1 when he was 4 years old to see the medics … thus resulting in several timeouts but nevertheless funny. We could have clips from the didactic portion of school and see the sweat bead up on their brows as mega code approaches. Also, let’s add in the video of the first intubation done during clinical and see if we can do a zoom on how bad the hand holding the larngyscope is shaking. Good comedy folks!

Lastly, we need a goodbye song and phrase. I think the appropriate choice would be “How to Save a Life” by The Fray. So, the only thing left is the phrase used to tell an intern that he or she is out.

In the system I work in, we need to make base hospital contact to have a patient pronounced dead. It’s the same detached sound on the radio every time.

“At 0219,you have an order to pronounce per Dr. Smith.” Although that would make my stomach curl (thus the position of host for yours truly), I think the last thing that should be heard by the intern who isn’t moving on to the next round should be the voice over the radio saying, “At 2059 you have an order to pronounce.”

As I proudly gazed at all of my graduating students, I couldn’t help wondering, “Would you have been the last medic standing?”


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