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Home > Topics > EMS Advocacy
July 10, 2014
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The Question
by EMS1 Community

What are the biggest misconceptions about paramedics?

This is for all you 'ambulance drivers' out there

A question posted recently on Quora asked “What are the biggest misconceptions about paramedics"? 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

The most common is mistaking a paramedic for an "Ambulance Driver." Paramedics receive a tremendous amount of training, from specialist medical knowledge to hazardous materials operations, and the training for driving the ambulance is arguably the least of these.

Another common misconception is that paramedics are somehow financially motivated to harvest organs. Medics do not have much to do with organ donation aside from being aware that it is one reason (among other more important ones) to provide life support when possible, even in the case of a "lost cause."

Other misconceptions I have encountered:

  • Assuming the medic gets paid for delivering people to hospitals, and that is the motive behind them trying to convince a patient to go to the ER.
  • Thinking medics can and do use lights and sirens whenever they feel like it.
  • (Sadly) thinking a medic has the equipment, training and access to a vet hospital to provide care for an injured pet.
  • I have encountered several cases where patients were convinced they received different care based on their race. One pointed out the two similar boxes we carry (one for trauma, one for medical emergencies) as proof, and refused to believe the different equipment wasn't part of this.
  • Some people think paramedics transport bodies.
  • Thinking paramedics can help them with odd jobs. One woman once called us to fix her shower.
  • Thinking paramedics can give medical advice outside of emergencies, that they can do check-ups for kids wanting to participate in school sports, or that they are doctors.
  • Thinking that a paramedic can fight a fire or shoot a bad guy; people understandably get very upset when a paramedic arrives at a call where some other emergency service must act first and waits (instead of doing something like going into a house where someone has been shot before police arrive.)

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.
Comments
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Paul D. Cissel Paul D. Cissel Wednesday, July 16, 2014 6:27:25 AM Maybe this is related to EMS in general but I still think the biggest misconception is by calling 911 you will get seen faster in the ED. Another is that we will bring you home after you finish your ED visit. I have had a number fo people expect a ride home.
Stacy Green Stacy Green Thursday, July 17, 2014 6:19:56 AM Thinking that Paramedics are too stupid to figure out that you are Faking your seizure. It's fake sir. It's obvious. But never fear. We will certainly take you to the hospital too.
Beth Edgerton Beth Edgerton Thursday, July 17, 2014 6:20:46 AM @paul. I have taken numerous people home after tx to ed for no reason in my community due to fact no wheelchair vans available. AMBULANCES ARE SO ABUSED IN THE TOWN I LIVE IN !!!!!!
Jackie Lenise Stevens Jackie Lenise Stevens Thursday, July 17, 2014 6:21:59 AM We can go in a store with radios, duty belts and shears someone will walk up and ask where something is in the store . Not a clerk
Michael Eickenhorst Michael Eickenhorst Thursday, July 17, 2014 6:24:28 AM Both are true yes, yet neither are misconceptions of a paramedic...
Janiece Gillard Janiece Gillard Thursday, July 17, 2014 6:30:32 AM Here in Newfoundland where I work , we do transport bodies.
Jim Roth Jim Roth Thursday, July 17, 2014 6:35:29 AM A lot of times after a lift assist, we get requests from the elderly to rearrange the furniture in their apartment.
Laura Smith Laura Smith Thursday, July 17, 2014 6:45:01 AM i've had that SEVERAL times! :-)
Laura Smith Laura Smith Thursday, July 17, 2014 6:45:39 AM excuse me, do you work here? LOL
Melinda Morgan Melinda Morgan Thursday, July 17, 2014 6:51:15 AM Last one depends on the medic training. FF/PMs are trained for fires, though paramedicine is their primary area.
Ben Adams Ben Adams Thursday, July 17, 2014 6:52:54 AM I am not in the field, but have a friend on Facebook who is. Her biggest pet peeve is being called "ambulance driver."
David Newton David Newton Thursday, July 17, 2014 6:54:57 AM In CA. it's against the law to put a dead person in an ambulance.
David Newton David Newton Thursday, July 17, 2014 6:56:49 AM Janiece, what do you do with them?
Grant Johnson Grant Johnson Thursday, July 17, 2014 6:59:48 AM I will remove the "grandma tripper" rugs at no charge.
Mark Kessler Mark Kessler Thursday, July 17, 2014 7:02:47 AM Worst of all these and many more misconceptions are held by other healthcare professionals (RNs, MDs, LPNs and so on). Maybe this would be a chapter to add in their education so maybe they would understand the asset and how it should be integrated into their world.
Anita Lindsay Anita Lindsay Thursday, July 17, 2014 7:10:37 AM Yes both are true and I have experienced this but I think it is a misconception of the EMS system, not the paramedic.
Anita Lindsay Anita Lindsay Thursday, July 17, 2014 7:10:44 AM That or to get them some water, change a light-bulb, or some other task the person can't seem to do . I'll do this as a courtesy if it is not something that will take a lot of time. It is good PR.
Roslyn Kay Bergmeyer Roslyn Kay Bergmeyer Thursday, July 17, 2014 7:31:31 AM Many Do transport bodies...I have personally at many companies.
Sean Duffy Sean Duffy Thursday, July 17, 2014 8:16:20 AM Same here. We transport bodies either to the funeral home, or I've transported to autopsy or morgue.
Wesley M. Ratliff Wesley M. Ratliff Thursday, July 17, 2014 8:42:09 AM In Knoxville because the 911 is run through rural metro if they have a need like they can't walk or so we will take them back on a bls truck
Wesley M. Ratliff Wesley M. Ratliff Thursday, July 17, 2014 8:42:51 AM I work in Knoxville and we do transport bodies...
Joseph Larson Joseph Larson Thursday, July 17, 2014 9:03:43 AM wait wait, are you telling me Paramedics don't know everything?? =)
Preston Young Preston Young Thursday, July 17, 2014 9:31:03 AM Why do firemen spray water around a car accident? To give the medics something to walk on...
Preston Young Preston Young Thursday, July 17, 2014 9:32:56 AM David Newton We transport them to the morgue in our small rural service. The larger service (NPO Hospital based) we do not. The city and funeral homes do this.
Rick Crook Rick Crook Thursday, July 17, 2014 9:45:53 AM Well actually, 2 of the above have been t rue in my career. We had a contract with the county for years to transport bodies to the morgue from scenes, and I have worked at 2 different services that paid a bonus per transport!
Carol White Hughes Carol White Hughes Thursday, July 17, 2014 10:02:11 AM I have been asked to unclog a toilet, change light bulbs, fix dinner, clean vomit and more.
Alex Wharrie Alex Wharrie Thursday, July 17, 2014 10:08:48 AM It's all good. Every profession has it's own growing pains. Police and Fire have had their issues as well. No matter how look at it. There are three major components to 911. Fire, Police, and Paramedics. Why do I say paramedics? It's what we are and prehospital medicine is what we do. We are relatively new players on the block and it's time we start promoting ourselves.
Courtney Elizabeth Courtney Elizabeth Thursday, July 17, 2014 11:00:17 AM This always bothered me. I have only responded to a handful of seizures, but the time we get there, the pt is no longer seizing. Why would someone fake a seizure. I don't even understand that mindset. How can you tell what is fake seizing? Besides the obvious signs lol
Ben Haynes Ben Haynes Thursday, July 17, 2014 11:10:02 AM There are a lot of reasons people fake seizures. They vary from psychiatric disorders such as Munchausen disorder, to a desire for attention. There was also this guy last year http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2013-10-29/news/bs-md-ci-dine-and-dash-seizures-20131029_1_andrew-palmer-oliver-speck-dinner-tab. There are lots of different ways to tell if someone is faking a seizure, it all depends on the type of seizure. If you go from tonic-clonic seizure to wide awake, with no postictal phase, you could be faking. Also answering questions or responding to another stimulus such as pinching or sternum rubs during a tonic-clonic seizure is usually a sign that it's fake.
Cölton R. Dean Cölton R. Dean Thursday, July 17, 2014 12:28:23 PM Police Officers and Sheriff Deputies are sometimes under the impression we can "medically clear" a suspect before they can take them to jail. We're not doctors, if I'm not rushing to get the suspect loaded into the ambulance then they probably don't need an ambulance. But if they are in your custody and you want them medically cleared you may elect to take them to the ER yourself of have them transported by ambulance. Officers and Deputies understandably want to CYA so they choose an ambulance and the suspect gets a ride to triage.
Scott Kier Scott Kier Thursday, July 17, 2014 12:31:03 PM I have yet to read any of the comments to this, but seriously? This is the list that was come up with for this topic?? How about... 1. All a paramedic can do is "take you to the hospital" 2. Response times are the most important thing about the care you receive. 3. If you call an ambulance, you will bypass everyone in the waiting room. 4. Paramedics and EMTs are well compensated for the work that they do. 5. EMTs can do the same work as paramedics, and every ambulance that shows up has the same level of providers on it. Those are what I can come up with off the top of my head....
Nicole Young Jamie Heron Nicole Young Jamie Heron Thursday, July 17, 2014 12:46:36 PM I HATED TRANSPORTING BODIES... .it was unnecessary
Jim Roth Jim Roth Thursday, July 17, 2014 4:45:37 PM Fix dinner?? That's above my pay-grade!
Tim Lemp Tim Lemp Thursday, July 17, 2014 6:03:05 PM Here in Illinois.......only funeral home vehicles or ambulances can move the deceased. None of the county coroner's office can do their on transport. If its going directly to funeral home, the funeral home picks up if available, if not they rely on an ambulance company to do it. If it's going to the morgue first, it automatically gets picked up by an ambulance.
R Stacy Voliva R Stacy Voliva Thursday, July 17, 2014 7:06:13 PM I have transported dead bodies, given medical advice (and treatment) outside of emergencies and completed sports physicals, ED discharges and even teched some basic runs... I have dragged fire hose and climbed in wrecked cars... Some of our biggest hurdles as professionals come from within. I think one of the biggest misconceptions these days are that paramedics aren't highly trained healthcare professionals. Perhaps my experiences are uncommon, but I have worked in hospitals in nearly every department as a physician extender and in ambulances as a critical care transport medic with fancy drips and machines and lots of neat stuff... I continue to educate myself and others around me. There are those that cling to a protocol manual and those that are true wingnuts out there doing crazy stuff. Both are bad for the business... But there are also those who take it seriously and do their best to make sure patients and families have a better day after meeting us than they were before. You can do the minimum or do your best. Your choice each day.
Steve Cole Steve Cole Thursday, July 17, 2014 9:54:13 PM That all paramedics are Firefighters. Or that , if Im not a firefighter, there must be something wrong with me.
John Oscar John Oscar Friday, July 18, 2014 4:16:50 AM #1 is actually has a small amount of truth to it if you work in the private sector. If the patient doesn't go to a hospital, often insurance (especially government issued) won't pay for the call. However, on the street level, the average medic really doesn't care about that.... #7 is rapidly happening with the advent of community paramedicine.
Piper Morisen Piper Morisen Friday, July 18, 2014 6:19:38 AM Oh, heck I get that even when wearing shorts, a grubby t-shirt and carrying items I'm purchasing in a shopping cart.....I have an overwhelming urge to ask, "really? what gave it away, the fact that I'm not wearing the same clothes as other wal-mart employees or the shopping cart?" But, I'm way too nice.
Ed Hillenbrand Ed Hillenbrand Friday, July 18, 2014 2:14:09 PM Some medical schools are now requiring medical students to spend a semester riding an ambulance as part of their course work. University of Virginia requires 30 shifts (at least a few years ago) when my nephew went through. Makes a tremendous difference in attitudes.
Scott E Mc Scott E Mc Tuesday, September 30, 2014 6:20:55 PM I was waiting for someone to post this, and you win +100 internets for posting it. :D
Dave Gilman Dave Gilman Tuesday, September 30, 2014 6:33:10 PM Several of the hospitals in Boston require their nurses to do ride time with Boston EMS as part of their education so they can understand and appreciate what goes on prior to arrival at the hospital
Miranda O'Dell Miranda O'Dell Tuesday, September 30, 2014 6:54:13 PM All of these are misconceptions, yes. Maybe it is time we start producing ways to stop these stereotypes...
Zachary Dussault Zachary Dussault Tuesday, September 30, 2014 7:19:13 PM Wesley M. Ratliff Yes, but that is a transfer.
Kyle Strickland Kyle Strickland Tuesday, September 30, 2014 8:10:20 PM That we just drive
Shane Bogenschutz Shane Bogenschutz Tuesday, September 30, 2014 8:10:35 PM Depends on the area you are in. Here in Indiana people do abuse that so they do not have to wait in the waiting area before getting into a room. They get direct access to a room. 2nd some departments do transports as well as emergency calls, these stations bring forth that accusation that we transport back home as well, they do not realize that particular station also is a transport service not just emergency service, there they start thinking they all transport.
Shane Bogenschutz Shane Bogenschutz Tuesday, September 30, 2014 8:13:02 PM Depends on the area you are in. Here in Indiana people do abuse that so they do not have to wait in the waiting area before getting into a room. They get direct access to a room. 2nd some departments do transports as well as emergency calls, these stations bring forth that accusation that we transport back home as well, they do not realize that particular station also is a transport service not just emergency service, there they start thinking they all transport. Also some stations are volunteer and do get paid only by call, cutting their money in half if they do not transport I could see some stations out there with your newer EMTs trying to push transport for that extra 10 dollars.
Sandra Egleston Sandra Egleston Tuesday, September 30, 2014 9:06:40 PM The biggest misconception I get is the assumption that we make a salary comparable to an R.N. As a basic EMT in a small EMS agency, non-profit, I make $9 hourly. When my medic license comes, I will make $11 dollars an hour. No benefits at all. I know that there are agencies that pay better, but they are a minimum of 45 minutes or so away from my home. I'm glad I love my job!
Joan Zimmer Joan Zimmer Tuesday, September 30, 2014 9:39:29 PM ...and add to that, some people think we are a taxi service.
Adam Stennis Pitalo Adam Stennis Pitalo Tuesday, September 30, 2014 11:21:50 PM Had a pt last night that should have gone to the hosp but adamantly refused. Tried to talk her into going when she said....."you've had a 90min crash course in taking people to the hospital".
John Sarmiento John Sarmiento Tuesday, September 30, 2014 11:56:51 PM My personal favorite was a ETOH female that was only having a seizure involving her left arm, UNTIL we told her to keep still so we could start an IV and it stopped, but the right arm started until we were done and then it swapped back......
Brandon Doering Brandon Doering Wednesday, October 01, 2014 1:33:48 AM We are fire medics in my county. I fight more fire off my bus than the guys on the engines. We also have the opportunity to work in the hospitals with a similar if not more advanced skill set of R.N. We get abused every shift and used as a taxi, movers, handy men, security blankets, or a friend to talk to. Remember the oath you take to become a responder. Also remember that in the time that these people call the ambulance, no matter the call, it is an emergency to them. If you don't like helping people, then why are you here? Certainly not for the pay or glory...there are neither in the medic field. Everyone knows firefighters are the chosen ones.
Brandon Doering Brandon Doering Wednesday, October 01, 2014 1:36:12 AM Fix these misconceptions by educating the public appropriately...the only way these things will change is if we fix them.
Timothy Burrows Timothy Burrows Wednesday, October 01, 2014 7:45:56 AM When opiate OD patients state they didn't take anything after Narcan reverses their coma.
Alec Fehrenbach Alec Fehrenbach Wednesday, October 01, 2014 9:27:00 AM Personally I enjoy this aspect of my job. Fixing dinner is going a little far, but as I'm currently working private EMS, I take a lot of patients back to their private residences, where all too often, they live alone or with family members that are really only there for free rent. Maybe I haven't been jaded enough yet, but when I take an extra 10 minutes to make sure granny is sitting in her favorite chair with all 6 pillows just right and her newspaper and tv remote within reach, I feel like I've done my job well
Michael Giancaspro Michael Giancaspro Wednesday, October 01, 2014 11:10:26 AM > Thinking medics can and do use lights and sirens whenever they feel like it. Unfortunately, some do. I've seen it. I was waiting to make a left turn out of a driveway and an ambulance that had just stopped at a doughnut shop was also making the left turn. Heavy traffic so no one was moving. They gave it 20 or 30 seconds and then the lights came on. As soon as the turn was complete the lights turned off and stayed off.
Brian Stevens Brian Stevens Wednesday, October 01, 2014 12:26:36 PM If you work for a commercial service, you are encouraged to transport to a hospital so the company gets paid, some companies don't bother to bill for RMA and if they do it's significantly less than a transport of course, ultimately giving medical care for free. They'll tell you it's to protect providers from liability, and while that's somewhat true, the bottom line is the bottom line...money in which we never see of course.
David Overstreet David Overstreet Wednesday, October 01, 2014 12:37:28 PM I used to volunteer for a service that transported bodies to the funeral home, and no it was not in the seventies. Try back in the early 2000's, and our service received $75 for transporting them there.
David Grammer David Grammer Wednesday, October 01, 2014 4:37:20 PM We transport bodies, unless they are released to the funeral home.
Julie Alzate Julie Alzate Thursday, October 02, 2014 11:06:44 AM My coworkers and I have been called out to make a sandwich for a lady, empty foley bags, get food out of the microwave, move furniture, you name it.
Christine Drinkard Christine Drinkard Thursday, October 02, 2014 1:30:15 PM Adam, in all fairness, you did JUST get out of school and cleared...Lol
Honour Horne-Jaruk Honour Horne-Jaruk Thursday, October 02, 2014 2:47:07 PM According to my brother, thinking paramedics can intervene in a domestic violence case (Nope).
Michael Sherman Michael Sherman Thursday, October 02, 2014 7:19:40 PM I think this is one of the most well written chains on here - I happen to have an extremely talented brother - so caused me to read.
The Arrogant Pricks of EMS The Arrogant Pricks of EMS Thursday, October 02, 2014 8:11:34 PM EMS seems to constantly sell itself short with cries of, "We can't do that" or "we aren't doctors". There seems to be a real lack of vision in EMS that was not prevalent when the founders of EMS came together for the idea of mobile healthcare and transport. Perhaps we should make Walt Disney's Carousel of Progress mandatory for all EMT's?
Edward Jason Zubia Edward Jason Zubia Friday, October 03, 2014 10:07:50 AM The article was well written. He forgot to state the biggest misconception of all... That we are paid well
George Yaworski George Yaworski Friday, October 03, 2014 11:41:55 AM What you are looking at is a public who have through poor education begun to expect things that you list from you. I will say that as part of my job I have done a lot of those things, and no, not been offended by it. Body calls are the easiest, nobody in the back complains to you.
Linda S McKinney Linda S McKinney Saturday, October 11, 2014 2:27:24 PM THEY DIDN'T HELP MY HUSBAND THEY LET HIM DIE.

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