8 habits paramedics take home with them

How many of these habits have you developed and carry with you off-duty?


By Sean Eddy

While EMS is a constantly changing industry full of daily surprises, we still have our fair share of activities that never change. It can be a tough line of work to get used to, but once we get “broken in,” we find ourselves carrying home habits that never seem to go away, even long after retirement.

Researchers at one point discovered that it takes 66 days to develop a habit, so you can only imagine how 10 to 20 years of working EMS can hard-wire these things into our brains. While I could essentially write a book listing all the habits we take home with us, I managed to narrow it down to my top 8:

Photo courtesy of Tommy Guidroz
Photo courtesy of Tommy Guidroz

1. Inhaling Food
It doesn‘t matter if we work in a busy or slow system, the fear of eating a cold or reheated meal is real. I‘ve said there are two ways to summon the Call Gods: Close your eyes to get some sleep and sit down to eat a meal. It never fails. I have been told by countless people in my personal life that I inhale food faster than a shop vacuum.

2. Noticing Veins
We like to think one step ahead when we're performing initial assessments on our patients. Within the first 20 seconds of meeting someone, we‘ve established if they‘re breathing adequately, circulating an adequate amount of oxygen and functioning correctly neurologically. We often like to think ahead to our treatment plans, so we find ourselves glancing at our patient's arms to figure out if they‘re going to be a difficult IV stick. This is something that I just can‘t help do with every single ever-loving person I meet.

3. Scanning Rooms
When we show up at a house (or any scene for that matter), we immediately start scanning the room for safety hazards and clues as to what could have caused the patient‘s illness or injury. Is the patient a smoker? Do they have any medications lying around? Any drugs or alcohol? What are their living conditions like? When I walk into a house that I‘ve never been in before, I just can‘t help but “scan” the place. The good news is, if you‘ve invited me to your house, the chances are strong that 75 percent of houses I walked into recently were beyond disgusting. Based on the sliding scale, I‘m going to immediately notice how “clean” and “well kept” your place is.

4. Advising “In District”
I did this for the longest time every time I drove past the county line. I'd reach for the radio in my personal vehicle that doesn‘t exist to advise dispatch that I‘m back in our response area. Advancements in mobile computer technology have essentially eliminated the need to do this, so I have slowly found this habit dying a peaceful and much-needed death. That doesn‘t mean that its ghost doesn‘t pop in for a surprise visit every now and then.

5. Napping at Random Times
I have spent the majority of my career working 24- or 48-hour shifts. Over the years, I have learned to go down for a “safety” nap at any reasonable opportunity. This usually comes out of fear of the dreaded after-dark calls that always seem to happen when you aren‘t adequately rested. I do this all the time at home, although I‘m sure this “habit” is probably more like a form of sleep deprivation or a result of nearly two decades of punching my REM cycle right in the face.

6. Driving to Post Locations or Hospitals
I once pulled into a parking lot that was a posting location when I was on a date and just randomly parked. It took a couple of minutes of sitting there for no apparent reason for my date to ask what we were doing there. I wish I could say that was the only time that happened. I have caught myself attempting to turn into ambulance bays at a hospital I‘m driving past on multiple occasions, and I‘ve driven to work instead of where I intended to go more than once.

7. Jumping at the Sound of Tones
I hate, hate, HATE this. I hear ringtones that either sound like my handheld radio alert tone or our dispatch tones and I immediately reach for my radio that isn‘t there.

8. Waking Up at Random Times
I have had plenty of would-be full nights of sleep interrupted with me waking up thinking I missed a call or something. It‘s as if my body has trained itself to expect to be awoken within a certain amount of time after falling asleep. There‘s nothing quite like waking up at home and thinking you‘re at work. On the other hand, it usually beats waking up and actually being at work….

What are your habits? If you work in public safety, sound off in the comments with the habits you bring home.

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