EMS – It’s A Wonderful Life

They say time flies when you’re having fun, and this month marks the 30th anniversary of when I started full-time in EMS first as an EMT, then as a paramedic, then as an EMS chief officer and now as an EMS program director for a college.

As I reflect back on my EMS career, and in particular my EMS management experience, I’m reminded of the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life,” starring Jimmy Stewart. It’s a great movie shown frequently during the holiday season. Although you may not have immediately thought of this as an EMS training video, it has some great messages that could apply to your career, not just during the holidays but throughout the entire year.

Never discount your value or that of your colleagues. I recently had a conversation with a friend who, for the past five years, has been the manager of a service where he has worked for 30 years. He said that if he had to do it over, he wasn’t sure that he would. I was surprised because his contributions not only to his organization but to the region and state have made a significant impact. Often, EMS managers can’t see or feel the differences they have made, and sometimes it’s up to the rest of us to remind them. Be proud of your accomplishments, and continue to be motivated to bring about positive changes.

Don’t believe you waste your time. In talking with a number of EMS managers, I’ve learned that they’re often frustrated with the challenges of the job. A changing workforce, economic issues and the general requirement of doing more work with fewer resources have many managers questioning their job choice. Many question their efforts to enhance the level of service while waiting for the next issue to test them. But because of the dedication of EMS managers, the profession continues to improve at an amazing pace. Every time you choose to make your organization better, it adds value to the level of service provided to your citizens and ultimately to the EMS community at large.

Don’t wish for another profession. Even if you’re frustrated at times, you must love what you do. Having ambition and working to become a manager or supervisor takes a true effort. And after you achieve that goal, your success depends on your dedication to EMS. Don’t sit in your office, buried under paperwork, dreaming of other jobs. Seek new goals to enrich your career. Be involved in your organization and in EMS at a regional, state or national level. Don’t look back after 20 or 30 years and wonder if you made the right choice. Make the choice every day to be part of EMS and with everything you’ve got.

Participate in your community to make it a better place to live. EMS is about helping people, not just at work but also in life. How many times have you been asked a medical question off duty or had someone seek your help with a project in your community? Don’t be afraid to get involved in something new or be a part of a community group. By sharing your skills and talent, you can enjoy the benefits of improving your own community.

It’s important to be a friend and to have friends. Like George Bailey in the movie, we sometimes forget the value of friendships. Friends who have been with us during the good and bad those who truly know us really do make a difference in our everyday lives. The next time you’re having a stressful day, pick up the phone and call an old friend you haven’t talked to in a long time. Even if you only have time for a 10-minute call, you’ll feel less stressed and you may have helped them when they were having a bad day. It helps to stay connected with your friends. I urge you to make at least one or two calls each week.

Do the right thing. When it comes to making decisions, is your underlying principle to do the right thing? Are your decisions based on the best interests of the entire organization and community, or are you thinking only of yourself? Successful managers are those who place their employees and the level of service to the community first and their own interests last.

The demand for EMS will continue to increase for at least the next 30 years, and you can either help guide the path or hang on for dear life as the ride speeds up and goes in many new directions. The majority of EMS providers won’t make it to their 30-year anniversaries. But if you’re one of those diehards who has hung in there or if you’re planning to last that long, you know the special meaning of working in EMS and that it is a wonderful life.

As my review of this movie comes to an end, my gratitude goes out to EMS providers who are working during the holidays and will not be with their families. Please know that your contributions this time of the year and every day do make a difference in the lives of everyone you meet.

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