I am an acting state-certified paramedic, and I love my job.
Should I Become a Paramedic?
So you have searched and searched, trying to determine where your place is in the professional world. You have probably seen an ambulance flying past you at a high rate of speed, siren blaring that magical tune, going until those magical red lights disappear into the night. You can't help but think to yourself that it must be exciting being in the driver's seat as people move out of your way. You think to yourself, "I wonder where they are going? What are they going to see? I wish I were going."
The truth is, the world of EMS is a very exciting career at times. Some days, you will do absolutely nothing and wonder why you ever took the job. The next day, you will save somebody's grandfather only to turn around and deliver a baby on the next call. Is it all worth it? Stay tuned for the pros and cons of the life of a paramedic.
There are many pros to being a paramedic. The list could go on and on, but I will only list some of the pros that I feel are the biggest.
1. Saving Lives Feels Really Good
There is no other feeling in this world than that of saving someone's life or delivering a baby. I cannot even begin to explain the overwhelming feeling of seeing that first heartbeat on the cardiac monitor hooked to a once pulseless and breathless human being. I believe this feeling is so strong because, in your mind, this person would have never taken another breath if it were not for you. You feel as if you and this person are the only people on the earth, if only for a second.
2. There Is a Sense of Camaraderie Among Paramedics
Camaraderie is a huge pro in my book. The camaraderie between paramedics is second to none. These are other paramedics that you will be partnered with for typically several weeks at a time, if not indefinitely. You will build a relationship with your partners unlike any other. You will work with somebody for so long that you know what they are thinking before they even know what they are thinking. This must happen so that patients can be taken care of in a timely, safe, and smooth manner. When you have this camaraderie with each other, things tend to just happen and flow without anything needing to be said in the way of treatment of patients. If you have ever seen a funeral procession for a fallen paramedic, you will understand this term completely. Highways shut down, and a procession can go on for miles. You will have agencies from out of state cover the fallen paramedic's county of service so that as many of his colleagues can be a part of this event as possible.
3. You Will Be Respected by the Community
Another pro is being a respected member of your community. You will get random acts of kindness towards you just for being a paramedic. This is not a reason to become a paramedic, but it definitely is a nice pro. You will be respected by everybody. When you show up at your kid's school, all of the other kids will just be in awe that their friend's mom or dad is a paramedic. When you are out and about running errands after getting off shift, you will run into random people thanking you for your service and giving you God's blessing.
4. There’s No Constant Supervision
Lack of constant supervision is something that I love. Who wants to have somebody constantly breathing down their neck? Being a paramedic means being trusted with someone's life. To do this, you often have to be alone with one other person for up to 24 hours at a time and never see a supervisor. This type of trust allows things like this to happen. You are trusted that you will be doing what you are supposed to and be where you are supposed to be. This does not mean you can do whatever you want because I assure you that management is typically not that far away.
5. You Get to Drive Fast
You get to drive fast, and cops move out of your way. The first time I ever ran lights and sirens, and a cop pulled off the side of the road while I blazed past him at 15 mph over the speed limit, I was sold on this profession. This is one of the few jobs in this world that allows for a little bending of the rules when it comes to being on the road. Sure, you can't just run through stoplights at 75 mph like in the movies, but you do get to run those trucks really hard, and it is so fun.
Now that we have gone over just a few of the pros, it is time we consider some of the cons when it comes to being a paramedic. This category also has tons to choose from, but I will cover a few of the ones that burden me daily.
1. There Is a Lot of Paperwork
Paperwork, by far, is the worst thing about being a paramedic. You have to do paperwork to do your paperwork. Most EMS agencies are government-run and funded, thus meaning tons of paperwork all of the time. There is so much paperwork involved that on some days, I assume to just not run a single call to keep from doing paperwork. If paperwork were not involved, I would not mind running as many calls in a day as I possibly could run.
2. People Complain a Lot, and Their Complaints Can Result in Reprimands
The second con is I feel like taking care of the patient is only part of the job these days. Lots of times, the job feels more like CYA (I'm sure you can figure that one out) so that you don't get sued or fired. This in no way, shape or form means that you do less at your job but more of having to go over and do everything for someone that is just using you as a taxicab ride to the hospital. Everybody is sue-happy in this day and age, and you must be aware that you are always being watched by the patient and their family. You would not believe some of the complaints that supervisors hear these days. Something as simple as leaving trash in someone's living room after coding their loved ones could get you reprimanded or fired.
3. People Call For Silly Reasons—It’s Not All Saving Lives Day in and Day Out
One of the biggest cons, in my opinion, for this profession, is it just is not what everyone made it out to be. I blame some of this on TV shows and movies. Paramedics go into this career thinking that they will be doing great life-saving things mostly every day. This could not be farther from the truth. The fact of the matter is, is most of the calls you run will be things that people could have got in there car and drove themselves to the hospitals for. Things like scraped knees or toe pain. You will get a lot of people calling for headaches and broken hearts. Yes, you read that right, calling because they are broken-hearted. This seems to be a big reason that a lot of people get burned out in this career.
4. The Salary Isn’t Great
The salary of a paramedic is far below what it should be in the eyes of most people. The wage per hour is typically eight to ten dollars less than a nurse's. Keep in mind that a paramedic does very stressful things in the blink of an eye without a moment to spare in order to save a life. These are split-second decisions that mean life or death of someone's loved one. This really is a field that you must absolutely love doing because getting rich will never happen. If you want to do something that is kind of close and make a lot more money, an ER nurse may fit the bill for you.
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5. The Job Can Be Hard on Your Home Life
Last but not least, you must have an understanding family to work as a paramedic. You will never get off when your shift ends. You will almost always be at work, for sometimes hours after you were supposed to go home doing paperwork. You will miss some important times, such as Thanksgiving and Christmas because emergencies do not take vacations or holidays. You will have to work weekends and nights. You will have to miss some of those football games that your child may be playing in. Having a strong relationship with your family will help in some of these missed times, but for others, it may not.
Is Being a Paramedic Worth It?
Becoming a paramedic is just like every other career out there, and it has lots of highs and lows. This is a career that you must truly enjoy to succeed. Many paramedics out there have been on the job for nearly 40 years. If you ask these people if they would do it again, most will say yes in a heartbeat.
These people have been doing this public service for so long because they enjoy and love it. They may not love every second of it, but all in all, they love it. They will tell you that there is nothing like it out there, and they could never see themselves doing anything else. You have come to a point in your life where you are considering becoming a paramedic, and I hope that this article has helped answer a few questions and concerns that you face with this decision.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Sherry on July 14, 2018:
This is just FYI, you might want to watch your grammar, repeated use of ‘there’ rather than ‘their’ and spelling. Otherwise, somewhat helpful.
Annie on April 22, 2018:
Beautifully put! 17 years EMTP.
Ivee on May 12, 2016:
Makes me change my mind about becoming a paramedic since I have a child and would be missing out on her life a lot...
Angela from Marietta, Ga. on December 29, 2015:
I'm an Emt soon to be paramedic. And your article couldn't be more accurate and correct. I think this would be great to read if someone is considering the career.
Barbara Purvis Hunter from Florida on September 17, 2014:
I value and appreciate paramedics. I admire anyone who does this as a career. No one knows how wonderful these professional are until you need them.
Love to them all,
June Campbell from North Vancouver, BC, Canada on September 16, 2014:
It's a valued profession. I wish paramedics were paid more.