EMS Volunteers Give Their Time for Various Reasons

We have various reasons for why we volunteer, and these reasons are often a reflection of who we are. A recent discussion within theJEMS Connect volunteer EMS grouplooked at this topic, and I found it interesting that there were some common themes. If we can pinpoint why we all volunteer, we can find ways to encourage others to volunteer.

A Sense of Duty to the Public
When a community is in need, we often see the best in each other. Many volunteers said the desire to become a volunteer came about when they realized there was no ambulance service in their area or there was extended response times — some more than 45 minutes.

It’s Rewarding
Helping others is at the base of everything we do in EMS. We give up our time and rearrange our lives to help others in their time of need. There’s a realization that in doing this we help our own heart, but that doesn’t lessen the commitment we make. Some people call it obeying the “Golden Rule,” but I just tend to follow what Zig Ziglar says: “You can have everything in life you want if you just help enough other people get what they want.”

As with many others, I got my start in volunteering due to my family being involved. I literally grew up in a firehouse, and volunteering is in my blood. Many departments now have third or fourth generation volunteers, and there’s rarely anyone more committed than a family that volunteers together.

For Other Opportunities
Although I would like to think everyone volunteers to help others, for some volunteering is just a stepping stone. I personally don’t mind when someone gets their training as a volunteer and then goes to a paid service, but only if they’ve done their time. We all have other jobs and many want to stay in public safety, but you still need to pay back your department for all of the time they’ve invested in you. It’s the best of both worlds when people gain paid jobs in public service but continue to volunteer, even if their paid service may frown upon it (a topic for a future article).

As often happens with Internet threads, the question of“Why Volunteer” on JEMS Connectwent downhill as certain members started to bash volunteers. Although I refuse to get into a fight on this issue, it’s a shame to see comments like this: “Thank you volunteers, you, along with the fire department, killed American EMS.” What happened to all of us getting along and doing the right thing for the public? There’s no need for fighting between paid and volunteer services. We all have our place. We can all be professionals (or not).

Lights and Sirens
We do have to admit that there’s a portion of every department and probably a part of each of us that volunteer for the excitement of lights and sirens and the adrenaline rush that goes along with it. Some go a bit too far, and their personal vehicle may look like a disco ball responding to the call. But whatever gets you out of bed is a good thing! There’s nothing wrong with admitting we like the adrenaline rush, as long as we’re saving lives and doing good for our community.

More Simply
Maybe it’s more simple than all of this. In response to the“why volunteer” question, one JEMS Connect member just said, “I’m hooked.” A simple answer, but it’s the truth. People who volunteer year after year are hooked. Volunteering becomes part of us, and that’s something we should be proud of everyday.

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