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The biggest regrets in my EMS career

If you could start your career over, would you do anything differently?

By Sean Eddy

My career in EMS has been full of ups and downs.

For the most part, I have viewed mistakes as an opportunity to learn and hopefully help someone else down the road. I try my best not to carry the bad days around with me. However, there are a few experiences that have really stuck with me over the last decade. I believe that my experiences have made me who I am today, but there are some things I would certainly go back and change if given the opportunity.

Getting into management too soon

paramedic's biggest regrets, supervisor
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I was barely a one-year medic before I decided that it would be a good idea to take the plunge and apply for that white-shirt job. I was 23-years-old when I got my supervisor position. I didn’t take the time to get to know the industry better. I also had a lot of growing up to do. I was warned against taking the job by just about everyone I knew, but I ignored them. I was in way over my head. I was quickly transferred to work in an area where I hardly knew anyone and it took me some serious time and effort to gain the respect of my shift.

I certainly value the time I had as a supervisor. I gained a much deeper understanding of EMS and I learned things that I would have never learned anywhere else. I just wish I had taken the time to grow as a paramedic before taking that step. I feel like I robbed myself of a big portion of my “new medic” career phase.

Compromising my ethics over a serial killer

paramedic's biggest regrets, jail
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I don’t typically get hung up over individual calls, but this one really stuck with me. I was assigned a long-distance transfer from a local prison where I wound up having to transport a high-profile serial killer. He quickly got under my skin and I acted like a complete jerk to him. Had I treated anyone else the way I treated him, I would have been fired on the spot. While most people don‘t usually see this as a huge deal, it really bothered me because we are supposed to treat everyone the same, no matter what. I see this as a huge ethical failure on my part.

Allowing my personal life to affect my work performance

paramedic's biggest regrets, personal life problems
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There was a period of my life shortly after going through divorce when I went from being known as one of the hardest working supervisors at the company to being called out by my counterparts for my poor performance. I was making poor decisions on my days off, getting tied up in personal drama at work, showing up to work with almost no sleep, and falling short on my required duties on a pretty regular basis. It was so bad that I got transferred to another division so that I could be watched a little closer.

Just opening up and talking to someone about all the changes in my life could have avoided all of that. I figured that since I wasn’t sad, my life changes weren’t affecting me. By not handling my personal business, it followed me to my place of employment and almost cost me one of the best jobs I ever had.

Not taking control of my finances sooner

paramedic's biggest regrets, financing
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I’ve been no stranger to poor financial decisions. Buying a house and a car I couldn’t afford, not budgeting, relying on overtime, and just generally being disorganized was my game plan pretty much from day 1 of my EMS career. It just didn‘t catch up to me until later. For the most part, I was able to offset my bad decisions with increased income. When that dried up, my life started to fall apart. I had no backup plan. I found myself working three jobs and still not making ends meet.

I had been in the workforce for well over 10 years and had nothing to show for it. No plan for retirement, no emergency fund, nothing. When I really started feeling the pressure, I thought I had no other choice but to leave EMS for a higher paying job. Fortunately, I reached out and got help. I learned how to budget, paid off debt, and got started on a plan for retirement. Had I continued down the path I was going, I would have ended up ending the career that I’m passionate about. I can only imagine where I would be now had I taken control of my money sooner.

Tell me your story

What are some of your regrets? If you could start your career over, would you do anything different?

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