A Day in the Life
How did you know that EMT was the right job for you?
After graduating from college with a BA in American History, I had no idea what to do with my life and felt like I didn't have any valuable skills. Then, after seeing the devastation that struck New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, I was inspired by the first responders who ran in when everyone else was running out. I knew I wanted to go back to school and get some real, tangible skills—so that when the next disaster struck, whether it was a hurricane or a car crash, I could be the one of those people running in to help.
At that time, I was living in Chicago and got my EMT certification there in just a few months. I then moved to the Bay Area, where I could make more money while also living in one of the most beautiful cities in the US. I started working for a private ambulance company, and have been there for about five years.
What's a typical day like in your job?
I almost always work a 12-hour shift and I always with a partner—but just about everything else in a shift changes daily. I usually work a 9-1-1 shift (also known as Advanced Life Support). Generally, the calls we respond to are not high acuity, but occasionally they can be true emergencies such as shootings, car accidents, strokes, or cardiac events.
Once we get a call, we head to the scene as fast and safely as possible and arrive prepared for anything. After we've assessed the situation and the patient's well-being, we begin providing care, such as bleeding control, splinting, or drug administration.
Sometimes the company I work for provides medical support at special events like citywide parades, sporting events, or concerts. Those can be fun but also hectic.
What's your favorite part of the job?
For me, it's all about the variety. I love that every night holds so many different possibilities. In one night, I could go from treating a homeless person in one part of the city to helping a woman who fell at a fancy black tie gala at a mansion in another part of the city.
I also like that the job requires a lot of teamwork, and all the providers I get to work alongside are amazing. This includes nurses, doctors, firefighters, policemen and women, therapists, and social workers. It's great to feel like part of system that truly helps people.
What's most challenging?
Being an EMT can be very physically and emotionally intense. There can be long, busy shifts and sometimes you have to work on weekends or holidays. It's a very exciting job, but it can also be exhausting and stressful. The police, fire department, and doctors often get the credit in emergencies, so you also have to be okay with being a bit of an unsung hero.
What's your best advice to anyone considering becoming an EMT?
I would say it's definitely worth doing! It's only a few short months of training and you get access to all of these incredible situations and so many learning opportunities.
Even for people ultimately interested in becoming nurses or doctors, serving as an EMT is a great introduction to the language of medicine, drugs and how a hospital works. Being an EMT can be a career in itself, or a stepping stone to many other careers in medicine. For example, I'm in classes right now to get my master's degree in nursing.