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Dare to be different: Creating contrast in EMS

Updated July 1, 2016

When I was an assistant flag football coach I asked the players, "Who wants to kick-off?" eight arms shot up from our eager team. I have seen the same thing when asking soccer players who wants to be captain or hockey players who is ready for the next shift. 

Contrast the kids eager reaction to the last time you asked a group of EMT, paramedic or continuing education students, "Who wants to kick-off this simulation by going first?"

Maybe you get one reluctant hand tentatively raised.

As the youth sports season progresses the coaches increasingly notice the kids who listen with their body — they are the ones looking at the coach, keeping their hands and feet still and keeping their mouth closed.

This is no easy feat for a child, but it creates significant contrast from their teammates.

Create contrast in EMS workplace
In the EMS workplace we do a lot to fit in. Our uniforms are, well, uniform. Our patient assessments and treatments follow algorithms with little opportunity for contrast or deviation.

Creating contrast though isn't just about making yourself stand out for recognition. It is also about making your message or ideas stand out.

The Kilted to Kick Cancer campaign, led by EMS and law enforcement professionals, creates contrast by bringing attention to the importance of prostate cancer screening. Nothing creates contrast quite as effectively as men in kilts. A willingness to look different generates opportunities to talk about the initiative.

Steve Whitehead's excellent EMS1.com video series, Remember 2 Things, draws your attention because it is "2 Things," not "1 Thing" or "3 Things" or a "Top 10 List."

The videos are different because Steve focuses on "2 Things" you didn't learn in EMT school. He shares the tips and tricks that have made a difference for him.

I profile Everyday EMS Athletes because I want to contrast them from the frequent and deserved complaints about obesity among EMS professionals. EMS athletes share tips and inspirations that have helped them move from a sedentary lifestyle to an active and healthy lifestyle.

Lenwood Brown III and Daniel Sundahl use art to share the EMS experience. Their drawings and photographs connect EMS professionals and give a glimpse of our world to outsiders. 

In the EMS workplace, there is a lot of pressure to conform. Uniformity is OK and serves many important purposes. But to progress as an individual and as a profession we should continue to seek out opportunities to share how we contrast with other EMS providers, other allied health professions, and other emergency responders.

Where do you see and hear contrast in EMS?

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