Hollywood’s portrayal of emergency responders has skewed the public’s perspective of what it means to be in emergency medical services. While these shows and movies help to inspire people to pursue a career in public service, they don’t provide a realistic idea of the commitment EMS work requires. Breaking through these misconceptions and understanding what it means to be an emergency responder is important to preparing aspiring EMTs, paramedics, and firefighters for the job ahead. If you are considering one of these careers, here are five realities of being an emergency responder.
Emergency medical services requires dedication to your physical health and strength. Because emergency responders carry heavy equipment and may need to carry the weight of another person, being physically fit is a priority. EMTs, paramedics, and firefighters are constantly exercising to maintain their strength and stamina for when the job calls for these skills. Being able to climb multiple flights of stairs, control an active fire hose, or load an ambulance means you can’t afford to slack off on your fitness. Lacking physical fitness can lead to injury for yourself, your squadron, or civilians.
Moreover, working as an emergency responder means you may be called for duty at any time of the day or night. If extra hands are needed, you are the first one on call and you must be prepared to respond immediately. At times, this may mean you are on a scene for hours on end working through the stress and exhaustion.
Being responsible for other people’s lives is no small matter. Even when you prepare as best you can, there will always be a situation in which you are unable to save or protect someone. The mental toll of such a job can quickly and easily take over. Suicide and mental health issues like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder are common in this career field because of this weight. Often the guilt or the feeling of having to grin and bear it only contribute to the problem.
If you are a first responder or considering becoming one, remember: the lesson here isn’t about how strong you have to be mentally, but rather knowing it’s okay if you need to reach out for help. Support and help are out there for people living with the unique stresses and mental health issues associated with this line of work.
This is not a 9 to 5 career that lets you just clock out at the end of the day. The shifts are longer and include weekends and all holidays. Committing to the life of an emergency responder means having to accept you will probably miss out on important events and milestones. This may mean missing out on Thanksgiving dinner or having to skip your best friend’s bachelorette party. For those with children, it also means time away from home and your family.
While you do have a break between shifts, it is likely a fair bit of that time will be spent sleeping and resting. At times, it may even feel like you’re watching others’ lives unfold through social media rather than participating yourself. Friendships and relationships with those who don’t understand your career may suffer. This is why the camaraderie among squads is so important; these people will become your second family.
Unlike becoming a travel agent or architect, the emergency medical services career path carries a significantly higher risk for injury. This is not a job that only affects you; understanding that when you make the choice to start training for your career is important. There are hard but necessary conversations that need to be had concerning your wishes should the worst come to pass.
Though your family and friends may worry every time there is an emergency situation, the sense of pride that comes with knowing you are actively making a difference is phenomenal. Doing what is right and necessary in times of crisis keeps your community safe for your family and friends. Additionally, the bonds you make with fellow emergency responders runs deep and is lifelong. Even when it seems like a thankless job, knowing your life is dedicated to serving those in need makes the long hours and hard days worth it.
If you’re ready to start the journey toward being an emergency responder, contact Performance Training Systems today. Our comprehensive EMS exam preparation services ensure you are fully prepared for the test and the real world.