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The Question
by EMS1 Community

Why don't medics get the same recognition as firefighters and police?

Read the response and add your own thoughts in the comments.

A question posted recently on Quora asked “Why are paramedics not give the same recognition as firefighters and officers"? Former paramedic Anderson Moorer gave his opinion on the topic. Read his response, and add your own to the comments.


By Anderson Moorer, EMS1 Contributor

Paramedics are really a very new role in emergency response, having come into existence around the 1960's, whereas police and firefighters have been around for at least 1,000 years.

For the past 40 years or so, paramedics have been defining exactly how they fit in with hospitals, fire departments, and police agencies. 

A paramedic is something like a nurse or physician assistant, and they are ultimately always agents of medical doctors who direct the care they give, so perhaps they should be run by hospitals. But they are also very much like firefighters, so maybe they should be part of fire departments. But it's also increasingly valuable for police to be trained as medics and for paramedics to be part of SWAT teams, riot response and the like ... so perhaps they belong in police departments too. 

And in fact all are true — you find paramedics in all roles, inside hospitals, fire departments and police agencies, as well as in standalone private services, the military, costal rescue, etc. 

Furthermore, a "paramedic" is distinct from an "ambulance driver," so you have people with minimal health care training who perform transports of patients to hospitals and nursing homes and the like, and volunteers like the Red Cross with "ambulances," who are often confused with paramedics or who have some degree of basic life support (EMT) training.

So it's perhaps not as clear with what agency one might give recognition, and it’s not always clear when a paramedic is part of what's going on. Because paramedics are currently "embedded" in so many different roles, they also do not have the organized and powerful systems of unions and structures for press relations that police and fire agencies typically have. They lack an organized "voice" to call attention to their deeds, or their fallen.

But they are there, at all the fires, shootings and disasters. Paramedics died on 9/11 (43 of them, plus the firefighter/EMTs), and in general they are right beside their fellow emergency responders in moving towards danger when it happens.

They are among the police and firefighters, and for the most part understand when the public forgets to mention them, as they may well be police or firefighters themselves, or at the very least know that their comrades in the field understand they are a vital part of the teams being praised.

About the author

"The Question" section brings together user-generated articles from our Facebook page based on questions we pose to our followers, as well as some of the best content we find on Quora, a question-and-answer website created, edited and organized by its community of users who are often experts in their field. The site aggregates questions and answers for a range of topics, including public safety. The questions and answers featured here on EMS1 are posted directly from Quora, and the views and opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of EMS1.
The comments below are member-generated and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of or its staff. If you cannot see comments, try disabling privacy and ad blocking plugins in your browser. All comments must comply with our Member Commenting Policy.
Lawrence Ryan Lawrence Ryan Saturday, June 28, 2014 12:49:24 AM A few thoughts. A "medic" is a military designation. You are paramedics. That is by no means a slight or demeaning. It's just accurate terminology. Medics and paramedics are not the same and these titles are not interchangeable. I was a medic in the military and I carried and rifle and sidearm. I do not carry those as a paramedic now. That is just where the differences start. On 9/11 there were only 2 paramedics who died. There were 43 individuals who were paramedic-qualified, but most of them were working as firefighters on that terrible day. There is no standard of care as far as EMS goes. EMS services employ EMT's, paramedics and a variety of different skillsets. Police and fire services do not have this same challenge. The NFPA regulations ensure that all firefighters are trained the exact same way. Police and fire services go back thousands of years. The first fire brigades existed in the Roman Empire and policing goes back even further. Police and fire services were around when the constitutions and foundational laws of our land were being formed. EMS is going a fantastic job of earning credibility and respect for itself. Give it time. You're not going to make up for hundreds of years overnight. It'll come. EMS lacks a common voice because those in EMS have chosen not to be united. I've heard countless paramedics talk about the IAFF and all the good things they have. This comes from firefighters coming together in common interest, sacrificing and working together. The IAFF have suffered tremendously over the years in their fights. They have spent millions of dollars, all of which have come from the pockets of their members, to advance various aspects of their profession. Unfortunately sacrifice doesn't come all that naturally to a lot in the EMS profession (sorry, I had to say it). People in EMS tend to be very selfish and out for themselves. Ironically a set of skills that make them good at their job (to be focused on patient care) cripples them outside that because they have far too much tunnel vision. The new generation of EMS providers seems to be very much infected with this kind of thinking. There is no leadership within EMS. The quality of leadership that is often found within the ranks of police and fire services is seldom found in EMS. Most unions that I am familiar with are not interested in the advancement of the profession. They are interested in benefits, making money, etc. Nothing wrong with wanting benefits and money but you need to look at the entire scope. I've seen unions put up a stink because their members are not being paid for a new procedure they are doing. They lose complete sight of the fact that those procedures are doing wonders for the profession and will pay off in the long run by distinguishing modern paramedics from the ambulance drivers of the past. There has to be a mentality change here. Asking why we don't get the same same recognition is a good thing to wonder. However we need to stop feeling sorry for ourselves. Did you sign up to get a pat on the back or did you sign up to make a difference in the lives of those who would perish without your intervention?
Skip Kirkwood Skip Kirkwood Saturday, June 28, 2014 8:35:43 AM "Medic" is also a contraction of "paramedic" and is used as such in much of the United States. With no meaning or connotation whatsoever. In much of the world, physicians are called "medic" also. I wouldn't waste any on that terminology. And quite a few of us who served in the military, and carried a sidearm and a long gun (mine was a 12 ga. pump) considered being called "medic" a grammatical error on the part of the speaker. We are called Corpsmen. Or, when you had earned your spurs - "Doc." The big issue, as Lawrence finally got around to, is lack of unity. There is too much focus on distinction (differences between EMT and paramedic, between fire-based and hospital based etc., and now between those who feel that there is something wrong with using "medic" as a collective) and not enough on commonality. The Canadians and Australians figured this out already - EVERYBODY who works in EMS is a PARAMEDIC, and guess what - it helped with the recognition thing. Leadership? There IS leadership. Mostly, there is a lack of FOLLOWERSHIP. It is impossible to be an effective leader if nobody will fall in behind you! And EMS people simply won't follow - it is like herding cats to try to get a group anywhere. Hmm....maybe much like American politics today - "If I don't agree with you 100%, you are worthless, I hate you, and I won't compromise with you on anything!" That seems to be the state of things.....
Lawrence Ryan Lawrence Ryan Friday, August 01, 2014 11:40:03 AM I've never seen or heard a physician refer to themselves as a medic. Any paramedic who forgets the significance behind accurately identifying what they do can simply be reminded of it by being called an ambulance driver. If you served in the Navy then you were a Corpsman. If you served in the Army, you were a medic. If you are a civilian then you are a paramedic. If you are no longer in the military then you are no longer a medic much like how you are no longer a Sgt, Captain, etc. There is always something wrong with identifying yourself as something you are not. Many Canadian services have bastardized the title of "paramedic" because they do in fact call everyone a paramedic. Canadian Primary Care Paramedics cannot perform half of the skills in your average paramedic textbook. They have different levels of paramedics (primary care, advanced care and critical care). They have gone in great big circle taking themselves right back to the time when we called everybody EMT's, and then defined them as EMT-B, EMT-I, EMT-P, CCEMT-P. There is a lack of unity due to the inherent selfishness of those in our profession. A lack of followership is a direct result of a failure in leadership. We are either failing to inspire the members of our services or we are hiring the wrong people who are incapable of functioning in this environment. When you see one of your peers failing to support those in the profession, do you stand by and do nothing about it? Every time that is done, it is a failure of leadership. Leadership has nothing to do with rank.

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