Why I came to accept being called an 'ambulance driver'

The public sees what they want to see and I've come to accept that they see EMTs and paramedics as people driving ambulances

It is time for all of us to embrace our inner ambulance driver. As much as we fight the label, we are still ambulance drivers. It's possible to be ambulance drivers, as well as highly-trained and experienced medical professionals.

I can only hope that others realize our training and experience as well.

Nevertheless, without ambulance drivers there would be no reason for any of us, so we might as well accept the name.

Without ambulance drivers, there would be no reason for any of us. We might as well accept the name.
Without ambulance drivers, there would be no reason for any of us. We might as well accept the name. (Photo/Pixabay)

We know what we are and who we are. The general public kind of knows who we are and what we can do for them.

We have led ourselves to believe that the real enemy when it comes to wrongfully naming an entire industry lies directly with the news media. We tell anybody who will listen that those people should do some research before calling us something we are not.

Thankfully and unfortunately, hardly anybody listens to ambulance drivers. Picking a fight with the people who control public perception is seldom a good idea.

We are responsible

Our own industry is more to blame for the "ambulance driver" moniker anyway. Consider the news reporters; are they telling the story of a paramedic, an EMT, an EMT-I, an AEMT or in some faraway place like Rhode Island an EMT-C? (Rhode Island allows EMTs to extend their knowledge and license base by taking an advanced cardiac care program which is almost paramedic level, but not quite.)

And heaven forbid if a reporter mistakenly refers to a paramedic as an EMT or an EMT as a paramedic! That miscue has been known to prompt a 911 response for the medic who was misrepresented.

And speaking of medics, I once referred to myself as a medic in an online article and to this day get hate mail from combat medics who thought I was claiming to be someone I wasn’t.

The fact that the person driving the ambulance also possesses the training and skills to save lives is a bonus to the general public. The public sees what they want to see and they see EMS as people driving ambulances. If we, as a group of highly trained professionals, do not know what to call ourselves, then how can we expect everybody else to know what or who we are?

Ambulance driving is what we do

You will never hear firefighters complain that people call them firefighters, but call an ambulance driver an ambulance driver and watch out.

Firefighters spend only a small percentage of their on duty time actually fighting fires, but that does not matter, because they identify with firefighting and don’t mind that the public does so as well. Firefighters spend their time maintaining their station and apparatus, training for all hazards, responding to box alarms and EMS calls, performing trench, hazmat and water rescue, stopping leaks, recovering bodies, pulling horses from mud puddles, rescuing dogs from thin ice and a million other things. But ask the person who just spent his shift doing everything, but fighting fire what he does for a living and one-hundred times out of one-hundred they will reply, "I'm a firefighter."

EMT’s and paramedics spend a small percentage of their shift actually driving the ambulance. Most of our time is spent on scene or at the emergency department. While on scene we do amazing things, things that make driving the ambulance seem insignificant. We assess complicated medical conditions, administer lifesaving drugs, stick needles and catheters into people, palpate injuries and treat wounds, talk to patients, make them or their children laugh, make them feel better and even do CPR and run full codes when we have to.

On the highways, we crawl through glass, pull people from vehicles that might explode, risk our lives to save others and often do exactly that. At the ER, we give clear, concise reports, assist with patient care, flirt with doctors and nurses, explore the grounds for available snacks and restock our vehicles.

And how do we get to do all of these things?

By driving the ambulance there, that’s how.

I’ll be the first to admit that being called an ambulance driver barely scratches the surface of who we are and what we do. Until we can all agree on what to call ourselves, ambulance driver is the one thing that we all do, have done or will do, so we may as well learn to deal with the label, embrace it and be proud to be an ambulance driver. 

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