Dare to be different: Creating contrast in EMS

This fall I was an assistant flag football coach. When we asked, "Who wants to kick-off?" eight arms shot up from our eager team.

Contrast this with the last time you asked a group of students, "Who wants to kick-off this simulation by going first?" Maybe you get one reluctant hand tentatively raised.

As the weeks went by, the coaches increasingly noticed the kids that listened with their body — they were the ones looking at the coach, keeping their hands and feet still, and keeping their mouth closed.

This is no easy feat for a 7-year-old, but it created significant contrast.

In the EMS workplace we do a lot to fit in. Our uniforms are, well, uniform. Our patient assessments and treatments follow algorithms with little opportunity for contrast or deviation.

Creating contrast though isn't just about making yourself stand out for recognition. It is also about making your message or ideas stand out.

The Kilted to Kick Cancer campaign, led by EMS and law enforcement professionals, creates contrast by bringing attention to the importance of prostate cancer screening. Nothing creates contrast quite as effectively as men in skirts kilts. A willingness to look different generates opportunities to talk about the initiative.

Steve Whitehead's excellent EMS1.com video series, Remember 2 Things, draws your attention because it is "2 Things," not "1 Thing" or "3 Things" or a "Top 10 List."

The videos are different because Steve focuses on "2 Things" you didn't learn in EMT school. He shares the tips and tricks that have made a difference for him.

I profile Everyday EMS Athletes because I want to contrast them from the frequent and deserved complaints about obesity among EMS professionals. EMS athletes share tips and inspirations that have helped them move from a sedentary lifestyle to an active and healthy lifestyle.

In the EMS workplace, there is a lot of pressure to conform. Uniformity is OK and serves many important purposes. But to progress as an individual and as a profession we should continue to seek out opportunities to share how we contrast with other EMS providers, other allied health professions, and other emergency responders.

Where do you see and hear contrast in EMS?

About the author

Greg Friese is Editor-in-Chief of EMS1.com. He is an educator, author, paramedic, and marathon runner. Ask questions or submit tip ideas to Greg by e-mailing him at greg.friese@ems1.com.

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