Sunday, August 26

My Experience

I began volunteering at a local rescue squad at the ripe young age of 13 and became proficient in the art of ambulance washing very quickly. As I washed the one ambulance in our squad I listened to the over-inflated stories that became more gory and self gratifying the longer they were told. I was hooked, I wanted to start IV's and intubate and shock a dying heart. I couldn't wait to pull a person out of a burning car or hang from a cliff while dragging a bus load of bleeding hemophiliacs out of the grips of death.

I enrolled in the first EMT night class I could a few months after I turned sixteen. I excelled for two nights a week. My boring high school classes suffered dramatically but I really didn't care about the Cartesian Coordinates or literature.

I progressed through EMT intermediate and then paramedic shortly after graduating high school. High school came and went, much to fast, and I was out in the world. I worked in construction during the day and volunteered at the rescue squad at night. I even began telling some of my own war stories. Many of them growing from a small sprout of truth into a tree of exaggeration. I did learn from some of the best.

My love for pre-hospital care continued to grow and I was lucky enough to be hired by a large urban service in North Carolina. Prior to beginning there I had never met someone who went to school with the intent of becoming a paramedic and nothing more. I assumed everyone volunteered during their free time and was ecstatic to be paid for something they loved. I was wrong, actually I was extremely wrong. Many of the paramedics were unhappy with their job, their life and especially their role in the health care system. My enthusiasm dwindled quickly, sadly much like my naivety. I learned that the stories that were told, out of fun I thought, were really a way to vent frustration and prop up fragile egos. My hobby, my passion, had become a job and my job quickly began to frustrate me.

I quickly experienced burn out, my attitude turned nasty and I was rude to patient's more often than I would like to admit. I formed my own opinion of what an emergency was and unfortunately no one met my criteria.

Looking back at this time in my professional life I realize just how negative I was. It was so easy to feed of off everyone else and mimic their poor attitudes. At least I now have those experiences. The gift of hind sight is priceless.

My passion has returned and I enjoy the medical field once again, thankfully. So much so that I plan to return to school and learn those things that I neglected in high school so that I can progress into a leader in medicine. How knows, I may have the opportunity to improve pre-hospital care for the sick and injured and maybe even those who take care of them.

This post has completely veered away from what I originally intended. Oh well, better luck next time.

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Wednesday, August 22

More Difficult Than I Thought

I began a series of post a short time ago with the intent of having a completed work of.. uh.. art by now. I have came to realize that the more I research pre-hospital care the more fragmented and disappointing I have found it to be. More to come...

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Sunday, August 12

Paramedic Evaluation 2 - Bad

My partners last evaluation.


As we all know, one of the most important aspects of any job or career is compensation. On average, in the US, a paramedic makes 36,970 $ Per year according to Some may say that is good money and others may look at it and laugh. More than likely you will begin laughing pretty soon.

The average paramedic also works 24 hour shifts every third day. That equals out to 10 shifts per month. Before you say, "you only work 10 days a month" here me out. It's not all roses, actually there are no roses involved at all. On average that is 52 hours per week. In actuality every third week will be a 48 hour week and the rest are 72. The bread and butter in this profession is overtime, as you can see. The first forty hours are compensated at a very dismal hourly rate that is as low as 9$ per hour and only after the second shift in a week does the pay increase by one half. This makes it imperative to work every shift because any vacation time that is received completely negates the necessary overtime pay and decreases take home pay dramatically. This can quickly lead to milk and bread shortages (and maybe even beer).

Of course they are other ways that paramedics are paid. One of my favorite is something I dub Chinese Overtime. This method is based on a salary type pay scale but has some really nasty consequences. The pay is set at a yearly amount with the thought that the paramedic will work every shift without time off. If there is unscheduled overtime the base rate is divided in half and the paramedic receives comp time. This is basically a nice way of screwing people while they are asleep and unsuspecting. Overall, the more hours that are worked the less the medic makes per hour until they are no longer increasing their take home pay. The other nasty part is the fact that the comp time that is received is compensated at the base rate so you lose the overtime and are basically working 72 hours a week at the dismal base rate mentioned above.

One more pay method and I will stop. This method is used more with firefighters luckily and not paramedics but it sucks nonetheless. In short, the 24 hour shift is broken into a 16 hour block and an 8 hour block. You are paid for the 16 hours of "Awake" time but are not compensated for the 8 hours of "Sleep" time after midnight. Basically, you are asked to sleep in a foreign bed and remain ready to run an emergency call at any time with the expectation that you will be awake and in the ambulance rolling out of the station within one minute WITHOUT being compensates. Ugly, I know.

So that is how and how much a paramedic is paid. Tune in next week to see what they are paid to do.

Wikipedia's definition of paramedic: a medical professional, usually a member of the emergency medical service, who responds to medical and trauma emergencies in the pre-hospital
environment, provides emergency treatment and, when appropriate,
transports a patient to definitive care, such as a hospital, for
further assessment or follow-up care.

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