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Why do so many EMTs have a ‘Type A’ personality?

You must be a certain type of person – driven, competitive, organized – to be drawn to a career in EMS.

There is no question about it, Type A personalities are common in EMS. Type A tendencies can be good for the meticulous trade, but they can also mean major setbacks and limitations. What does it mean to be Type A, why is it so prevalent in EMS, and how can you harness these traits to make you the best EMT possible?

What are common traits of Type A personalities?

Personality types were first researched by Meyer Friedman, M.D. and RH Rosenman, M.D., who were trying to find a correlation between mental state and physical health.

Friedman and Rosenman monitored patients with heart conditions in a hospital waiting room. Unlike most patients, who waited patiently, some people seemed unable to sit in their seats for long. They tended to sit on the edge of the seat and stood up frequently. This observation began to outline the Type A personality.

Since the label Type A was created, further research has defined what it means to be Type A. According to Simply Psychology, people with a Type A personality are typically:

  • Competitive
  • Self-critical
  • Have high work involvement
  • Extroverts
  • Feel a constant sense of urgency
  • Concerned with time management
  • Organized

Do these traits sound familiar? It turns out Type A is relatively common among EMTs.

Type A and EMTs

There is little room for error in this profession, which is why a self-critical, competitive and organized person is the perfect fit for EMS. EMTs are responsible for managing drugs, dosages, protocols and more, all while dealing with a true medical emergency. Without paying attention to detail, costly mistakes can be made.

Making Type A traits work for you

Having a Type A personality can be rewarding for EMTs. It’s important to be detail-oriented and be productive with your time – both traits of Type A. But if you let your domineering traits show through too much, Type A personalities can be more of a weakness than an asset. EMS1 contributor Chris Cebollero highlights these three steps toward becoming a better provider for patients:

  • Realize the patients aren’t there for you; you are there for your patients. It’s important to put your ego (and competition) aside so you can be the best provider for someone who is likely having the worst day of his or her life.
  • Ask questions about your service. What do other people think of you as a provider? It may be hard to hear any criticism (should there be any), but hearing an honest opinion is what will help you learn how to become a better EMT.
  • Find a mentor who can guide and polish your work. EMTs often find it difficult to ask questions – a fear of showing weakness – but if you find a mentor who can ground you, you can learn a wealth of crucial information. No one knows everything about EMS.

Finding a balance

You need a balance of personality traits in the workplace. Without balance, Cebollero says, EMTs can become stagnant and make more mistakes.

Cebollero admits he is a Type A person and says that when he’s riding around with another person all shift, he needs that person to balance his personality traits. “Too much Type A doesn’t work. It’s always a competition. Who got off the seat faster? Who worked the code best?” he said. “At the end of the day it’s not about that. It should always be about the patient.”

Take the quiz: Are you Type A?

Word of warning for Type A

Type A traits can contribute to stress, too, which is a double-edged sword for this already stressful occupation. It’s not surprising that EMTs have an increased risk for stress-related health issues like high blood pressure. Running on high adrenaline in high-stress situations too frequently is unhealthy, and it’s important to find an outlet to help you cope with stress, such as yoga, running, meditating, fishing or camping.

Type A personalities are drawn to a career in EMS because the key traits are practically copied from an EMTs job description. If you are Type A, it’s important to understand what positive and negative habits accompany your personality traits.

The EMS1 Lifestyle content series is written for the off-duty EMT and paramedic. Here you’ll find content on everything from the latest automotive and entertainment trends to tips and tricks for financial planning – all written from a first responder’s perspective, with an eye toward what makes you unique even when you’re not at the station.