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Are we heroes or EMS professionals?

Our communities trust us with their lives, but that doesn’t make us heroes

By Sean Eddy

In EMS, we are tasked with doing what many people would consider “heroic.”

In a moment’s notice, racing down the road in our ambulances with sirens blaring to help someone during their time of need. People literally turn to us during their worst moments. Parents hand their kids off to us and willingly stand back as we close the doors to the back of our ambulance and drive away. Our communities trust us with their lives. But does that make us heroes?

No, it doesn’t.

We provide an extremely valuable service to our community, but at the same time, our community expects us to do just that. We are a hired service, whether it be private, third service, fire, hospital based, etc. When we show up to work, we have an obligation to help during times of need. After all, it’s what we signed up to do.

As a child, I often thought of heroes as being characters like Superman or Batman. That role always attracted me. The thought of suiting up and jumping into action at a moment‘s notice to be there in someone‘s time of greatest need sounded very appealing. Sound familiar?

It’s easy to associate what we do with being “heroes.” After all, we respond during times of crisis, right? Yes, but there is a distinction between our jobs and the actions of a “hero.” A hero steps in to do something that‘s both out of the ordinary and not expected of them. A professional provides a service that is expected and also performs up to a standard that is expected.

We are professionals.

Does being a professional take away from the value of the service we provide? Absolutely not. We make a difference in people’s lives every day. Communities employ us, as well as other branches of public safety, for a reason. They value what we provide. Now, we can snicker and make comments about how much our community values what we do, but the truth is, if they didn‘t find value in it, they wouldn’t care if we provided it.

We may not want to hear this, but the hero mindset holds us back.

In order for us to advance as an industry, we need to see ourselves for who we are — a group of healthcare professionals. Instead of focusing on “saving lives,” we need to focus on constantly finding ways to increase our value to the community. The act of actually “saving a life” isn’t something that we as individuals typically do on a daily basis. However, we do have the opportunity to (and often do) make a difference in people’s lives. We need to focus on that.

Let’s not pigeonhole ourselves into this life-saver classification. Yes, we do save lives, but that’s far from all we do. Even at that, we need to stop with the bragging and expectations that the public should “give us the recognition we deserve.”

My friend and fellow blogger, Kelly Grayson, said it best with a recent Facebook post:

“Ever seen what happened after Barry Sanders made one of those jaw-dropping runs?
He handed the ball back to the ref and walked off the field.
He acted like it wasn’t his first highlight-reel play, and he knew it wouldn’t be his last.
To the people whose opinion matters, quiet professionalism is the most impressive quality of all.” Kelly Grayson

ER nurses, ER docs, trauma surgeons, neuro surgeons and cardiologists are all great examples of people who do what most would consider “lifesaving” work. If you were to ask any of them if they’re a hero or a professional, they would undoubtedly identify themselves as a medical professional. Now, before anyone starts throwing the “they make a lot more money than us” argument out there, remember that there was a time when doctors were performing appendectomies in exchange for a cart full of chickens. Physicians and nurses have spent a tremendous amount of time honing their craft and shaping their industry. We need to do the same.

We have a lot of work to do if we want to move our industry forward, but that work starts with the individual. That work starts every day when we wake up and get ready to head off to work. That work includes pressing our uniforms, shining our boots, grooming ourselves, putting on a smile, and being the absolute best representative of our industry that we can possibly be.

Uniform Stories features a variety of contributors. These sources are experts and educators within their profession. Uniform Stories covers an array of subjects like field stories, entertaining anecdotes, and expert opinions.