Off-duty EMS response is a conscious choice and expectation

It’s fine if you don’t want to respond when not working, just don’t advertise what you do for a living

After being an EMS provider for more than 30 years, I still get a kick out of telling someone that I am a paramedic.

There is the invariable sense of wonder that accompanies the response, along the lines of, "Wow, that’s so cool? How do you do that job? I couldn’t do it!" It makes me realize the special place EMS providers occupy in society.

We are there when people need us the most. It’s easy to forget that premise. After picking up intoxicated folks, repeat callers and patients who don’t want you there, the do-good feeling can become hollow.

I implore you to not forget why we are here.

The sad story out of New York, about two medics on a lunch break who did not aid a pregnant restaurant worker that died of an asthma attack, is a good example of not remembering our reason for being.

If you are in uniform, you are advertising what you do for a living. In our world, that has a special emphasis. Members of the public expect us to behave according to what they feel is appropriate. It’s based on their trust of us being the “good guys” — there to help when called upon, whether on duty or off. 

If you don’t want to available when you are “off duty," that’s really just fine. You are entitled to do so. Just don’t advertise who you are, and then people around you won’t expect anything.

But if you choose to announce to the world what you do for a living, then be prepared to respond when called upon. Your community expects that.

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