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What happened to that pride you felt for the patch?

If you’re reading this, do something to remind yourself of who you were when you started this whole game

By Scott Ziegler

Remember when you got the news that you had passed your national registry EMT or paramedic exam? Remember how excited you were to have passed the test, finally able to go get a job and do what you set out to do when you signed up for the EMT program?

I remember when this all happened for me 11 years ago. I quickly put that national registry sticker they sent me on my truck window. I wanted everyone to know that I was an EMT and I couldn’t wait to start “helping people.”

Last night, I was reminded of that feeling again. I was detailed to one of our engines that is now doing medical first response. We went to a DIB call and the transporting unit that showed up on scene had a third rider with them. That rider was proudly displaying his NR-EMT patch that he had sewn onto his blue sanforized shirt — a shirt he most likely purchased himself in order to do the ride.

At first I thought, what a dork. Yeah, sure, that makes me sound like a complete asshole, but I’m just being honest. I then realized that over the past 11 years I have almost completely forgotten or let go of any feelings I had for that patch, or my certification. Watching this young EMT, I was reminded of who I was 11 years ago and what it meant to me back then. Let’s face it, I was the asshole, not him. But I know I’m not alone.

So, what happens to that pride?

Does it get lost in the thousands of “emergencies” that you respond to over the years? Does it get beaten down by the thousands of people who are constantly abusing the system? I’m reminded of the calls when you drive as fast as you can to get to someone who might be having a heart attack, only to find out that they really just want a ride to the ER for something that could have been handled at a routine doctor’s appointment.

How many times do those things have to happen before you lose that pride, that feeling that you are actually out there making a difference? How many times can you respond to the same exact person who has absolutely nothing wrong, demanding to go to the ER because he/she needs more pain meds, before you start to think that you would have been better off becoming a taxi driver. Hell, the pay is probably better.

I personally think this is something that most people who hold an EMS cert go through at some point in their career ... maybe multiple times. But the fact is, we DO save lives. WE do HELP people. We ARE doing what we set out to do in the beginning, and we are doing it every day. We just can’t let the bullshit cloud our ability to view our job that way.

As I watched that young man with his new patch last night, I was reminded of how I felt when I started. If you’re reading this, and find yourself at a similar point in your view of public service, do something to remind yourself of who you were when you started this whole game. Because, people need you.

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.