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Why are long careers in EMS so rare?

EMS1.com News

May 12, 2011


EMS News in Focus
by Arthur Hsieh

Why are long careers in EMS so rare?

By Arthur Hsieh

Editor's note: One of the most remarkable husband and wife teams in the history of San Francisco has just left the city service. Husband and wife duo worked on the same ambulance for 26 years, and are getting ready to retire for good. Editorial Advisor Art Hsieh said their story is rare, as longevity in our business is tough to find.

It's nice to see a couple of colleagues getting the recognition they deserve. Steve and Irene have been fixtures of the EMS system for a very long time, well thought of and highly respected by their peers. Through the decades the team cared for undoubtedly thousands of patients in the San Francisco EMS system professionally and with great empathy. The fact that they are a married couple just sweetens this lovely story!

Longevity in our business is tough to find. Our profession isn't kind. Even with today's technology, we do a lot of lifting, often under unexpected and uncontrolled environments. We are often underpaid and feel overlooked. In most places, the career ladder is short; it's hard to find longevity in the profession.

Yet we also look out for each other; Bryan Stow continues to receive donations for his family and his care as he tries to recover from his injuries from a senseless attack.

We reach out our communities and try to help them in their times of greatest need, whether it's an emergency or not. We attend ongoing training to better our ability to respond. When we meet each other at conferences, there's the tacit acknowledgment that we are part of one big family.

I think for those of us who end up being lifelong EMS providers, somehow we strike a balance in all of the above. We know that at times, the job is tough and frustrating. We also recognize how much satisfaction we derive from accomplishing a job that few others outside our profession would ever consider doing. We also try to be careful with our bodies and minds, as to be able to come back another day and maintain the same level of proficiency and professionalism our patients demand.

I salute my colleagues for having such a career. No doubt there are similar stories out there, maybe about folks you personally know. When they are ready to retire, make sure you congratulate them. It's truly an accomplishment.

About the author

EMS1 Editor in Chief Art Hsieh, MA, NREMT-P currently teaches at the Public Safety Training Center, Santa Rosa Junior College in the Emergency Care Program. Since 1982, Art has worked as a line medic and chief officer in the private, third service and fire-based EMS. He has directed both primary and EMS continuing education programs. Art is a textbook author, has presented at conferences nationwide, and continues to provide patient care at an EMS service in Northern California. Contact Art at Art.Hsieh@ems1.com.
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