EMS From a Distance: EMS in 280 characters: 1 Tweet per topic

From paramedic degrees, to ALS vs. BLS; boiling down the hot topics in EMS #grammarisoverrated


I wasn’t happy when Twitter doubled the maximum tweet to 280 characters last year. The old 140-character limit enforced brevity, if not elegance, and discouraged dependence on unpopular words, like adjectives. Why bother with them when you have emojis? And don’t get me started on adverbs; they should be used literally never.

As click-driven media discourage attention spans greater than adenosine’s half-life, having twice as much room for text isn’t necessarily a good thing. What’s the point of super-sized tweets if readers are bored by the time they reach character 141? Besides, English hasn’t been all that interesting since Jack Nicholson stopped making movies.

After consulting former EMT and current pet-grooming expert Helen Rubin, who is wise and solely responsible for my nourishment, I’ve agreed to an experiment: I’ll try summarizing every major EMS-related concern Helen has in no more than 280 characters per topic. I’ll probably have to compromise on vocabulary, not to mention content, but as Ernest Hemmingway almost certainly told his editor, “Don’t hassle me, I’m Ernest Hemmingway.”

What’s the point of super-sized tweets if readers are bored by the time they reach character 141? (Photo/Max Pixel)
What’s the point of super-sized tweets if readers are bored by the time they reach character 141? (Photo/Max Pixel)

Here are those tweets:

  • Low pay for EMS: Many workers make more than we do. It’s not fair because we save people and they don’t. Okay, maybe we don’t save too many people, but there are lots of us willing to help others for less than a living wage ... which is why many workers make more than we do.
  • ALS vs. BLS: Those acronyms don’t mean what they used to. Now EMTs insert airways and give drugs, but ALS doesn’t always help and BLS doesn’t always come first. BLS and ALS should be seamless, like shoes and socks. Or coffee and cake. Or Big & Rich. Enough already.
  • Use of lights and sirens: There is no proof lights and sirens keep patients alive. Go only as fast as you have to. Make only as much noise as you need to. If you must use lights and sirens, remember there are people in back who don’t necessarily share your sense of adventure.
  • Degrees for paramedics: Degrees come with knowledge, some of which can be applied to EMS. Paramedics don’t have to have degrees but they help, especially when paramedics can’t be paramedics anymore. It happens. Consider getting a degree and gaining knowledge that helps sometimes.
  • Volunteers vs. paid providers: Volunteering is noble but not popular with some who are paid. If you’re angry at those who do EMS for free, chill. Competent volunteers can be solutions to unfunded needs. And if you can’t get a job in EMS, it’s probably not because of volunteers.
  • Paramedics vs. nurses: Paramedics are very important and know lots of things. Nurses are very important and know lots of things, too, plus they have degrees. That’s why nurses earn more than most paramedics. If that bothers you, see the tweet about degrees for paramedics.
  • System abuses: Nobody likes answering non-emergent calls, especially when it’s dark. Embrace the suck. We don’t get to decide who calls 911 or why, and lecturing people only makes us seem scary. Don’t be scary. Helping others feels almost as good as sleeping through darkness.
  • Workplace violence: EMS is dangerous partly because patients get very angry at us when we make their drugs stop working. Maybe we shouldn’t make their drugs totally stop working. Then again, some patients get angry at us even without drugs. EMS isn’t for everyone.
  • Trade or profession: My dictionary says advanced education and intellectual skills are parts of being a professional. Is EMS a profession? Not according to my dictionary. We could settle this whole argument right now if everyone in EMS would just read my dictionary.
  • Bridge courses: Should nursing programs give paramedics credit for what we already know? Maybe some basics, like why dopamine boluses are bad, but nursing is fundamentally different from EMS. We shouldn’t expect RN endorsements on our cards after, say, eight hours of CME.
  • Firearms on ambulances: Some EMTs and paramedics want to carry guns on ambulances. So much for “First, do no harm.” Before you decide to arm yourself, please figure out how to prevent drug-addled patients and their crazy families from taking your gun and shooting me or you.
  • Romance in EMS: People actually argue whether this should be allowed. How silly. Go ahead, try making it against the rules. Maybe ban yawning and gum-chewing while you’re at it. I say romance is fine if it doesn’t get in the way of calls and doesn’t put stretchers out of service.

Some of my tweets sound like “The Cat in the Hat Does Quaaludes,” but I did learn a few worthwhile lessons:

  1. Small, simple words are better than big, complicated ones as long as we’re not speaking Welsh.
  2. If I want to write something useful, it’ll have to be longer than one tweet – unless the subject is investment opportunities for paramedics.
  3. I could have covered each EMS issue with only 140 characters instead of 280. I’m not sure that’s a good thing or a bad thing.

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