Viral Facebook posts highlight EMS passion, struggles
A pair of “Humans of New York” posts featured an EMS provider sharing how he connects with patients, while also describing the industry’s struggles
By Rachel Engel
NEW YORK — An EMS provider, referred to only as “Anthony,” was showcased on the popular Humans of New York page, detailing his passion for helping people, coupled with his concern about the obstacles the industry is facing.
“People love to tell me their shit. That’s always been my superpower,” the New York-based provider said. “A person in the back of an ambulance will tell me their deepest, darkest secrets. And I can usually find a connection with just about anyone.”
For him, travelling is his way of keeping his mind open, seeing the positive and connecting with others.
“[Travel] keeps me curious,” he said. “Because no matter how dark it gets, the moment I step on that plane, I’m surrounded by possibilities again. There’s always something I haven’t seen. Or a dish I haven’t eaten. Or a person I haven’t met, who will tell me something that I’ve never heard before.”
He said he uses his experiences to connect with patients.
“Now, when I’m comforting someone in the back of an ambulance, I have this great big world to pull from,” he said. “In a job like this, you see things that kinda make you want to pull back from the world. Child abuse. That’s the big one for me. Seeing the beatings, seeing the hurt kids. It’s just so dark. And you project that darkness on everyone.”
Seeing the suffering is the hardest part of the job, he said.
“At its essence, it’s very beautiful,” the provider said. “No matter your race or color – we’re here to save you and provide comfort. But it’s not natural what you see in this job: shootings, stabbings, body over here, head over there.”
The financial hardship of working in EMS compounds the harsh realities of the job, he said.
“Don’t get me wrong; we see wonderful things, too. People helping people, babies getting delivered. But it’s not enough wonderful,” he said. “You can’t dip your paintbrush in the wonderful and cover over the tragic. There’s not enough paint. You hope to find it outside work – some positivity in life. But, an EMS worker tops out at $50,000 a year. So, a lot of us are driving Ubers and stocking shelves at the supermarket just to put food on the table. Imagine that: 911 calls all day, then a clean-up in aisle five. That’s not a life.”
As a union representative, he knows the stress fellow providers are under, as well.
“You’re too beaten down to ever get healthy,” he said. “Sixty-eight percent of the workforce has left in the past four years. That means the person trying to save your life doesn’t have much experience. But it also means we have less community. Less people to lean on.”
And having that supportive community is important, he said.
“A lot of my work as a union representative is mundane stuff. ‘Anthony, I need time off.’ ‘Anthony, the chief is f****** with me.’ But sometimes it’s a lot more than that,” he said. “Sometimes it’s talking down somebody who wants to kill themselves. And trust me – I know what they’re going through. Because I’ve had those thoughts, too.”