Trending Topics

3 paramedic habits I can’t shake

The habits we learn to care for ourselves and others go with us off-duty into our personal lives


What habits can’t you shake?


The habits I learned and developed as a paramedic didn’t get left in the ambulance. A commitment to PPE, avoidance of alcohol-fueled stupidity and geriatric fall prevention are habits I carry into my personal life.

EMS1 readers, much like myself, have a collection of EMS-acquired habits they can’t shake. Scanning the hand and forearm veins as we chat with friends, family, co-workers or strangers is one of the most common habits we can’t let go. Our emergency vehicle operation habits, shouting out ‘bump ahead’ to the kids in the back of the mini-van or calmly stating ‘clear right’ to the Uber driver, stick with us off-duty. Of course, eating fast and hurrying a conversation with a spouse, significant other or child to get to the point is another pair of habits we just can’t seem to shake.

Here is more about the three paramedic habits that I can’t shake.

1. Commitment to PPE

My safety is number one — on and off duty. I take seriously the habit of personal protective equipment to minimize the risk of illness or injury. Specifically, this means wearing a sport-specific helmet for biking, ice skating and roller blading. It also means donning high-visibility clothing for road running after dark or early morning walks with the dog and blaze orange during gun season for whitetail deer.

Eye protection is one of the most important and most overlooked types of PPE. On duty, I wear eye protection on every call, regardless of the mechanism or potential for exposure. For recreational activities — from shooting sports to fishing to road cycling — eye protection is a critical part of my commitment to PPE.

2. Avoidance of alcohol-fueled crowds

I generally steer clear of festivals, concerts, sporting events and other types of mass gatherings where participants’ behavior is fueled by drug or alcohol intoxication. I know some paramedics thrive on the bizarre presentations and multitude of possible traumatic injuries that result from “hold my beer and watch this,” but not me. I would much rather spend a long transport with a sort-of sick, but mostly lonely geriatric patient, or a quiet night at home with friends and family.

3. Geriatric fall prevention

If I see an older person struggling to carry a bag at the airport, teetering on a six-foot ladder to hang Christmas lights in their yard or shuffling out of a dark theater, I offer to help lift, carry or guide. Underneath my smile and friendly offer, to spot their movement is knowledge of the difficulty to lift and move a geriatric fall patient. I also am keenly aware of the debilitating and often life-changing aftermath of a hip, pelvic, wrist or ankle fracture.

If my offer of assistance, a habit I can’t shake, is politely declined, sometimes I will reply, “I know lots of paramedics and I would much rather help you than have to call them to pick you up off the ground. Are you sure I can’t help?” This clarification almost always leads to willing acceptance, appreciation and the two-way benefit of a small act of kindness.

What are the habits you can’t shake? Add yours in the comments or send me an email.

This article, originally published in November 2016, has been updated.

Greg Friese, MS, NRP, is the Lexipol Editorial Director, leading the efforts of the editorial team on Police1, FireRescue1, Corrections1 and EMS1. Greg served as the EMS1 editor-in-chief for five years. He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a master’s degree from the University of Idaho. He is an educator, author, national registry paramedic since 2005, and a long-distance runner. Greg was a 2010 recipient of the EMS 10 Award for innovation. He is also a three-time Jesse H. Neal award winner, the most prestigious award in specialized journalism, and the 2018 and 2020 Eddie Award winner for best Column/Blog. Connect with Greg on Twitter or LinkedIn and submit an article idea or ask questions with this form.

Voters in Cedar County approved a measure funding a countywide ambulance service
The documentary aims to show legislators the challenges and issues faced by EMS across the country
Two paramedics and two EMTs were allegedly drunk during a retirement party at their Bronx station
RAA’s Mark Tenia shares advice for connecting your messaging with your audience to promote community support