Bad habits we picked up as paramedics

Some of our on the job learning is bad for us, bad for our patients, and best forgotten


If you work in EMS long enough and with enough partners you are likely to pick up some bad habits. Some of those habits manifest on the job - like not wearing proper PPE - while others become problematic at home - like eating every meal in 7.8 seconds or less.

We asked our EMS1 columnists about the bad habits they acquired as paramedics. These responses are from Mike Rubin, Kip Tietsort, and Michael Gerber. After reading, share the bad habits you have picked up as a medic, as well as how you kicked those habits, in the comments.

PPE and safety on the job

Mike Rubin, author of the EMS Pioneer profiles, disclosed a string of bad habits:“Not wearing gloves, not wearing seatbelts, pacing (with my feet), drinking the ambulance's supply of sterile water, starting IVs while moving, and removing the caps on needles with my teeth.”

Openness to change and learning

Kip Teitsort, who writes on violence against EMTs and is well known for his hit video series Escaping Violent Encounters, shared his resistance to change. “Probably the single most bad habit I picked up as a medic was getting stuck in the original way I was taught something. I found it difficult to readily accept a change in procedure or medication. It was as if it had to be proven to me over and over before I would even consider change.”

Prioritizing patients and personal safety

Much like Teitsort, Michael Gerber acknowledged that a bad habit he learned as a paramedic was an unwillingness to change. Gerber wrote, “What I learned in paramedic school is still true, no matter what science has proven since then.”

Gerber, author of the column Creating a Quality EMS Future, also acknowledged these bad habits or misplaced priorities he developed as a paramedic:

  • Shiny ambulance wheels and boots are more important than knowing physiology or washing my hands between patients.
  • Abbreviations that no one else understands are acceptable in my report.
  • I don't need to be rested for my 24-hour shift. I'll get plenty of rest once I'm in the station.

For Gerber and Tietsort the willingness to admit they have been overtaken by a bad habit is the first step in making a change to have an open mind for learning, better PPE and hand washing compliance, and getting plenty of rest before work.

It’s your turn. We all have habits, both good and bad, that we either can’t shake or we should be tweaking or kicking.

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