Back in the Jump Seat - @

Back in the Jump Seat

The curmudgeon returns & finds Âyoungins_


| Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Greetings, friends. It_s been about two years sinceJEMS was gracious enough to publish my ranting responses to reader mail. No, I didn_t pull the plug and take my retirement check to Aruba (although that doesn_t sound like a bad idea). I just needed some time away, you know? But I_m back and ready to espouse heaping servings of wisdomƒor at least give you another way of looking at your problems.

You wouldn_t know it from the outside, but I_m different than before. During my sabbatical, I_ve had the chance to work with some incredible people doing great things in bad conditions. They opened my eyes and taught me stuff I thought I already understood. I lost some dear friends along the way, but I strengthened other bonds. I know I_m a better person for it, but I wish for no one to go through it the same way.

One of the lessons was that a tragedy is a magnifier of character. If you_re self-centered and have poor leadership skills, a crisis will shine a floodlight on those faults. If you_re an effective leader of sound character, a crisis is an opportunity, a chance to show your true mettle. It_s also an opportunity for junior officers to rise up and deliver. Those are the moments that make you proud.

I also got involved in a few issues during the past two years that reinforced to me that the mainstream media is not your friend, but they_re also not your enemy. They_re just doing their job. Nowadays, reporting the news isn_t enough. The news has to be "sold" to viewers in order to compete with the billions of other available stimuli. So, it_s easy to have a love/hate relationship with the media, and we_ll put politicians in the same boat. When your agency is lauded for its charitable work, you love _em. When your department gets punched in the nose, you hate _em. The fact is, we need both. Reporters drive the voters. Voters drive the politicians. Politicians drive the money. I_m glad I_m just a medic.

I know I_ve blathered on, and if you_ve made it this far, thanks for listening. I look forward to hearing what_s on your mind. You can expect me to respond frankly, without pulling any punches. And as an act of good faith, I_ll start by answering a fellow old fart.

Dear Sirenhead,

Like you, I_m a dinosaur in this industry. I received my first EMT-B license in 1980. (I_m currently a nursing supervisor, but I_ve maintained my EMT-P all these years.) I recently attended an EMS conference where Randy Mantooth was the featured speaker, and he very eloquently laid out the history of EMS. Judging by the expressions on their faces, a great many in the audience had no idea what the White Paper was or the impactEmergency! had on the public. Some didn_t even recognize the name Jim Page! My dinosaur peers and I try to educate the kids in this industry about our history, but nobody seems to think any of this is important. They just go to paramedic school as a way to get in to the fire service. Am I too out of touch? Should I just pull the pin, retire from EMS and leave it to the kids?ƒEMS Dinosaur

Dear Dinosaur,

I_ve been a die-hard Washington Redskins fan since my dad took me to RFK stadium as a kid. We used to have an ongoing "discussion" about who was a better cornerbackƒPat Fischer or Darrell Green. My dad would pontificate on how Fischer was small and slow, so opponents went after him, and then Fischer almost always came out on top. I_d argue that Green was so fast that opponents would try to avoid him, but they just couldn_t get away from him.

My dad said us "youngins" didn_t respect the game because we didn_t respect its history. I_d shake my head when he got on a roll about the burgundy and gold. Now, my son tells me to get with the times as he regales me with how great Shawn Springs is. The dang kid just doesn_t have respect for the history of the game. Wait a minute, I sound like my old man.

My point is that every generation has its own heroes. Johnny Gage, Roy DeSoto, Jim Pageƒall my heroes. Our EMS kids will have heroes, too, but they may not be the same as ours. And that_s OK. It_s still our job to teach them about the old days, because one day theywill care. Come on, Dinosaur, did you and I really listen to the old timers who taught us out of the Red Cross "green book"? And while you_re sharing stories, ask who their heroes are and figure out how to use that to bond with them.

As for using EMS as a stepping stone, so what? Didn_t I see an RN and CEN behind your name? You got your EMT in 1980 and then became a paramedic and a nurse. So, should you pull the pin, retire from EMS, and leave it to the kids? I think not. It_s your job, no, your opportunity to raise EMS kids. It_s not easy, and sometimes it_ll really stink, but never give up on them. One day, when the chips are down, they_ll rise up and make you proud.JEMS

Tell Someone Who Cares

Got a question or complaint? Let Sirenhead hear all about it. He_ll answer you with 124 dB of traffic-stopping noise. E-mail,,then brace yourself!

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Related Topics: Leadership and Professionalism, History of EMS, Humor, Training

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