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What is it like being a paramedic?

If you want to know what it’s like being a paramedic, just ask one of the tens of thousands working in the U.S. They’ll tell you that it can be a great, rewarding job and that when you save a life, you feel like a million bucks. Resuscitating a heart attack victim who’s stopped breathing or delivering a baby is the thrilling part of the job. Paramedics go home after these kinds of responses feeling like they’ve done something truly valuable and wondering how some people can stand sitting at a desk day after day doing the same old thing.

The reverse side of that scenario is the times when they’re not able to save a life, especially if it’s a child or a young adult. Those are the times where a paramedic needs a huge amount of emotional fortitude not to fall apart, especially when they’re first setting out on their career as a paramedic. Being a paramedic isn’t an easy job. It’s not glamorous or sexy to be pulling bleeding people out of crashed cars or helping the elderly in the middle of the night when they’ve fallen out of bed and broken a hip. It takes nerves of steel to deal with many of the crisis situations that are part of being a paramedic. You must also be constantly on your toes and alert when you’re on-call, even if it’s three o’clock in the morning and you haven’t had any sleep. But it is extremely rewarding to know that you’re doing the best you can to help people and make a positive contribution to your community.

A paramedic performs many advanced life support (ALS) functions, including providing cardiac support, administration of medications and IVs, bandaging wounds and dealing with respiratory trauma. Paramedics work in teams with other rescue personnel and are often the one in the leadership role with the greatest amount of training and responsibility. When they’re working in a two-person ambulance team, one person does the driving while the other one provides medical assistance to the patient. At the hospital, they’re required to update the ER personnel on the condition of the patient and what care has been administered, including any medications. Being a paramedic involves filling out documentation relating to each rescue call, whether or not it involves a trip to the hospital.

Being a paramedic also means spending a lot of down-time waiting for a rescue call. During these times, they might get some well-needed sleep, especially if they’re on a 24 hour shift and were up all night. Down-time also means catching up on restocking, filing reports, cleaning the ambulance or taking care of other housekeeping duties.

Being a paramedic isn’t always about performing life-saving rescues. The majority of paramedic responses don’t involve life threatening events. Paramedics get called when people have a stomach ache or the flu more often than when they’re having a true health crisis. They also do medical transportation of patients between medical facilities.

By looking at both the good and the bad parts of being a paramedic, you gain a realistic perspective on whether or not it’s the right career choice for you.

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