It’s that time of year when we all make New Year’s resolutions and set personal goals, such as losing weight and paying off credit card debt. But what about setting professional goals? At the start of the new year, do you find yourself reflecting on what you’ve been doing for the past 12 months and thinking about ways to spice up your career?

You may set your sights on becoming a paramedic, a supervisor or a training officer. Or you may decide to return to school to finish up your degree or obtain Critical Care Paramedic status. These are all commendable and achievable goals that can and should be pursued. But I want to remind you not to forget about the important responsibilities you have in your current position and encourage you to focus on the things you can do every day that are important for you and your patients.

Check your personal problems at the door:„ It’s easy to have a chip on your shoulder when you arrive at work. That chip might be caused by a fight with your spouse, an idiot who cut you off on the road, financial problems or a poor night’s sleep. No matter what the cause, it can affect your attitude and, consequently, your professional approach and care of your patients throughout that shift. Understand that every patient is calling you because„they feel they have a problem you can address or correct. Don’t let„your problems interfere with the way you manage your patient’s problems.

Drive in a responsible manner:„ Remember that you’re driving a mobile billboard that will cause the public to form a lasting impression of you and the„EMS profession. Be ever cognizant of the fact that studies have proven high-speed driving, with frequent braking and acceleration, shaves just seconds off an emergency response and significantly multiplies the risk of injury and death to you, your partner and your patients. If you drive in a reckless manner, the public will transfer that image to your ability to care for them.

Don’t move your rig when occupants or objects are unsecured:„ Injuries occurring in ambulances are often the result of unsecured people or objects flying around in the rig when it stops abruptly or impacts an object. You can secure monitors, O bottles, kits and sharps containers to keep them safe and in place, but the only way to ensure occupants don’t get injured is to make sure they aren’t moving around in the patient compartment. If someone needs to unbuckle in order to intubate or start a difficult IV, pull over to the side of the road for the few seconds it will take for them to accomplish the task.

Pee after tea:„ The reason you back your rig into the garage is to ensure a timely response when dispatched. So go to the bathroom before you sit down or lay down to rest. Don’t waste precious seconds and delay a response because of a full bladder. And never sign en route until the wheels of your rig are turning. You’ll only be cheating yourself, your system administrators and your patients if you do.

Wear the right PPE at the right times:„ We learned decades ago that blood coming in contact with open areas on our skin can kill us or make us ill. Now, we have to respect the dangers presented by airborne diseases, bioterrorism, asbestos and other materials that can destroy our lungs. Wear properly fitting respiratory protection whenever the threat of respiratory contamination is (or could potentially be) present.

Remember two key facts about documentation:„ First, if you don’t document it, it wasn’t done in the eyes of the courts or investigators. Second, over-documentation is usually better than under-documentation. Get in the habit of jotting down brief notes„throughout each call so they jog your memory (sequentially) when you sit down afterward and begin to prepare your patient-care or after-action report.

Understand the profound impact of your words & actions:„ Treat the deceased, and their family members, with the same respect and professionalism you show a new mother as she brings a life into the world. The family of the newborn will appreciate your caring and encouraging words during the happy and memorable birth of their childƒthe way you carefully clear his airway and wrap him in a warm, clean blanket before handing him to his mother. But the relatives of a deceased individual, who have decades of priceless memories of their loved one, will appreciate your words, actions and professionalism even more. Don’t terminate a code and run away. Console the family, cover their loved one with a clean, white sheet and ensure they have an appropriate support network in place before you leave.

Look your destiny in the face:„ When you approach a urine-soaked patient in a nursing home or a woman whose family has abandoned her and causes her to live a lonely existence, remember you may one day suffer the same fate. Take care of each patient like they’re the most important person on Earth. They’ll appreciate all you do for them, and I think you’ll feel better about yourself, too.