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How we care defines our legacy News

August 7, 2012

Everyday EMS
by Greg Friese

How we care defines our legacy

Although you might not realize it or ever even know, someone will see you at your best moments and your worst

By Greg Friese, EMS1 Editor-in-Chief

Wins and losses, like successful IV starts, are easy to measure. But they may not accurately reflect the character and quality of the football coach, just as an IV start does not necessarily show the compassion and caring of the paramedic.

The unraveling of the Penn State University football program, its once revered-coach, and other members of the university’s top leadership after the criminal conviction of former coach Sandusky has been a poignant and tragic reminder that how we care for and protect those that are most vulnerable and in need can define our legacy.

Many organizations judge the quality of their members by measuring things that are easy to gauge. IV starts, vital signs within 10 minutes of arrival and documenting a patient’s pain on a 1-10 scale are important for a patient assessment, but they are merely interesting in our quest to determine if a paramedic is a caring and compassionate one.

A heavy focus on reporting these items is robbing time, energy and resources from efforts to better understand and assess qualities of caring, compassion and empathy among the EMS workforce.

For as long as I can remember, I have answered the question, “Can you keep a secret?” or “Can you keep this between you and me?” with a simple “No.” I believe nothing happens without it eventually being seen, heard, noticed or reported.

In every workplace I have been in, thieving co-workers have been observed, workers’ lies to management have been revealed, and managers’ unfulfilled promises to individuals have been shared.

Nonetheless, we often encounter situations when we believe there is no one watching or listening. Or we think a conversation and agreement will put a matter to rest, never again to be discussed.

What we do when we believe no one is watching is often the truest expression of who we are.

At that moment, are you doing what is right? Are you doing what you have an obligation to do? Are you performing the best action for a patient who is vulnerable and needs your care and protection?

Because I guarantee that although you might not realize it or ever even know, someone will see you at your best moments and your worst.

About the author

Greg Friese is Editor-in-Chief of He is an educator, author, paramedic, and marathon runner. Ask questions or submit tip ideas to Greg by e-mailing him at
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Julia Harris Julia Harris Tuesday, October 29, 2013 7:43:16 PM So true, so often!! Most of the time this leaves me feeling comfortable with my actions. Hard lessons learned over many years of life have convinced me that at the end of the day I have to answer to God and the person in the mirror. This policy has left me on the unemployment line on several occasions. Unfortunately politics, egos, and money often come before empathy, advocacy, and basic human kindness in dealing with patients. I've found that private "non-emergent" transport tends to be the worst offender. The contract and the money are MUCH more important than patients or employees. It's discouraging at best but I'm still here tilting at windmills and able to look in the mirror and sleep at night!!

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