First off, my experience as an EMT is pretty limited. I only completed the certification class a few months ago and I can’t even legally practice yet. However, in the 24 hours that I spent riding with an ambulance I learned some interesting things apart from the whole medical aspect of the job. There’s a lot of down time in between calls where you learn about the behind-the-scene aspects of the job, the chores, the housekeeping, the lifestyle, their relationship with other emergency services, and even their relationship with doctors.
This last bit was of special interest to me, as I’m also a premed student. I was talking to the paramedic and EMT I was riding with between two of our calls, and the fact that I’m premed happened to come up. Immediately my two preceptors, as they’re called, glanced at each other with a look that could only say, “Oooooh so you’re one of them”, as if they have a grudge against doctors or something. So I inquired what that look had been about, and they told me something that really changed how I saw doctors.
Apparently, a lot of them don’t think EMS does jack shit. They think we’re only a transport service, and that when we actually treat a patient, we just screw it up and make them redo it in the hospital.
Now before I continue, I just have to say that, despite my little field experience, I can with absolute certainty say that that opinion is utter bullshit. However, don’t think that all, or even the majority of doctors feel this way. Many of them truly appreciate the services we provide, as many were once EMT’s and paramedics themselves. Anyway, with this depreciative mindset lurking in the hospital, EMS has good reason to have a sort of feud with the docs. In fact, my preceptors continued to tell me of one or two doctors who they successfully persuaded to leave the hospital and join EMS. They were quite proud of this accomplishment, as if they had recovered two hostages who had been brainwashed by the establishment. Now obviously I’m exaggerating, but I suppose my preceptors had had enough run-ins with disparaging doctors to spoil their image.
Being both premed and an EMT, I tried to look at the issue from both sides. I could see how maybe the docs, with upwards of eight years of training, might look down upon the EMT’s, whose basic training only consists of one, semester long class. Despite this disparity, the idea that EMS is worthless is completely unfounded and baseless. That some doctors hold this belief unfortunately made me think less of the profession. As a premed, I look up to doctors as these righteous healers, superheroes to their patients. Learning that some of them discriminate just because they don’t have an M.D. threw a bit of mud on their bright white coats.
As if fate wanted to prove the absurdity of this claim, our team was dispatched to a heroin overdose later that same day. By the time we got there another EMS unit had already arrived and had begun treatment. The patient was completely unresponsive and on the verge of going into cardiac arrest. H.I.P.A.A prevents me from going into any more detail, but I can say that by the time he was enroute to the hospital we had stabilized him. Along the way the paramedic told me that if we had been maybe two minutes late arriving on scene the guy probably wouldn’t have made it. That statement really stuck with me. A lot could’ve happened to make us two minutes late. A red light could’ve killed this guy. Traffic could’ve killed this guy. But it didn’t. We did our job and got to this guy’s house in time to save his life. Without EMS, this man would have died. Plain and simple. If his family had decided to drive him to the hospital, he would have arrived dead. No doctor, no matter how much training or how many degrees he/she had, would have been able to save him. So I reiterate, the idea that EMS is worthless is utter bullshit.
So yes, even after that day I still want to be a doctor. Maybe even more so now, as after I (hopefully) complete the ghastly number of years required to become a practicing doctor, I can explain to my peers from firsthand experience how vital EMS is to a patient’s survival. And to all of you prospective doctors, and just everyone in general, don’t become an elitist asshole. Although EMS may not have as much training as you, or have as many degrees as you, just know that many of the patients you see wouldn’t have even made it to you without an EMT or a paramedic doing their job.