Unless you’ve been there, you wouldn’t understand: A Paramedics farewell to the job.

 

“I just don’t want to do it anymore…..I can’t do it anymore” I said as I stood across the kitchen bench from my father as he sat there confused with a look on his face like many that I have seen before, when I explain that I simply cannot be a Paramedic anymore.

“Why?” he asks. – “Unless you’ve been there, you just wouldn’t understand.” I say. That’s about as far as the conversation goes. I know the look. It’s the look that a lot have given. The look that says something in their heads like “But it’s a good paying Government job! It’s secure, you studied for years to get the qualifications, and you play an important role in society! Why the hell would you just throw it all in?!!!”

Well for over 14yrs now, I have proudly donned the uniform, but I have to say that in the last few years it’s been a bit of a battle with my mind to do it.

“You’ll be ok.” I’d say to myself. “Life won’t throw you anything that you’re not capable of handling.” “You know your stuff……what are you worried about? Suck it up, and stop being such a wimp.”

That’s just it…..I think deep down what has kept me going for the last few years has been the fact that I still had a little bit of belief that I if it came to the crunch – my inbuilt training and paramedic instinct would kick in, and I would do absolutely everything in my power to try and save the life that fate has plonked me in front of. Because that’s just what we do. It’s in our blood.

But that belief was slowly dwindling, and being swallowed up by an overwhelming feeling of ‘needing to protect myself’ from playing out anymore of this real life script – called “You must see some terrible things”.

Because unless you’ve been there….you just wouldn’t know.

You wouldn’t know what it’s like to still vividly remember the jobs you’ve gone to.

You wouldn’t know what it’s like to still see the look of helplessness upon a husbands face watching you do CPR on his wife who has just suicided by drowning. Who you just know that he’s going to blame himself for ‘ducking down the road to get milk’ and not being there in time to get her out quick enough.

Unless you’ve been there.

You wouldn’t know what it’s like to hear the chilling screams of the woman who was entrapped in her car after a speeding drunk motorbike rider hit her car, killing himself and his passenger….and knowing that she will never walk the same again, let alone her life being the same again.

Unless you’ve been there.

You wouldn’t know what it feels like having an 18yr old ‘birthday girl’ mutter her last words and die in your arms as you try to free her from a car wreckage on the night that she’s supposed to be ‘just going out to celebrate her birthday’.

Unless you’ve been there.

You wouldn’t know what it’s like to watch someone burning in a car – and not being able to do a thing to help her.

Unless you’ve been there.

You wouldn’t know what it’s like to have to tell a patient’s loved ones “I’m so sorry, we tried everything that would could – but we were unable to save him. He’s passed away. Now that’s something that you never get taught, nor do you get used to it.

Unless you’ve been there.

You wouldn’t know what it’s like to see a young man hanging from your local playground, and remember the ringtone coming from the phone in his pocket… which happens to be his worried girlfriend because they’ve just had a fight. – Then to have no explanation to your daughter as to why you won’t let her play at that playground anymore because you know you will just continue to see the image of his face as his body hangs lifelessly.

Unless you’ve been there.

You wouldn’t know what it’s like to hold that limp premature baby in your hands, and then have to resuscitate it – and having it spontaneously breathe by itself. Bringing ‘life’ back into the baby….but what sort of ‘life’ will it be, growing up in a household of poverty and neglect?

Unless you’ve been there.

You wouldn’t know what it’s like to still drive around your local area even 14yrs after being in the job, and know that you’re mind will ‘vividly’ remind you about THOSE jobs- as you drive past where they occurred…(good, or bad outcome). Or that you would have an overwhelming sense of having to quickly change the channel when you see some sort of ‘trauma’ related drama series on tv, because it just all seems to lifelike.

Unless you’ve been there.

The highs are highs, and the lows are lows. So, yes – I may appear to be ‘overcautious’ or ‘over the top’ with safety, with my own loved ones or even yours.

Yes – I’m the mother who puts strict rules on riding on the pushbikes / motorbikes / climbing trees / being in a car-seat / the age kids have to be to travel in the front seat / being around bonfires, and many other activities, and gets annoyed with comments like “Oh don’t be so over the top – she’ll be right!”. Because you wouldn’t know what it’s like to see how it doesn’t take much for a child to die or their life (and their family’s lives) to be dramatically changed forever.

Unless you’ve been there.

Yes, I may appear a little over the top when it comes to drink drivers or text driving, but believe me…if you’ve seen the devastation that it causes….you’d be hard pressed to even hold back YOUR own disgust at the lack of disregard for how precious ‘life’ is.

You wouldn’t know what it’s like to hear a teenage driver boast about how he’s been “Slamming Bourbons all afternoon for his best mates 18th birthday”….and hasn’t yet been told that his drink driving has just killed his best mate who is laying in the passenger’s seat of the car that is still wrapped around a power pole.

Unless you’ve been there.

You’d never know what it’s like to witness many lives sadly taken from this world too soon, at the hand of their own decision – and the overwhelming sense of helplessness and sadness that they felt like they had no other choice to heal their pain.

Unless you’ve been there.

I think the straw that broke the camel’s back is when tragedy happens to people you care about.

Like the suicides of people you know, the deaths of people that have just left this world too soon, cancer, car accidents, the realisation that has been building over the years because you’ve seen it time and time again; that ‘Life can be too short – and it can all be gone or dramatically changed in an instant.’

This realisation left me thinking that “I don’t want to turn up to a job, and it be someone that I know.” It’s bad enough with all the dreams of turning up to people I know.

Then my best friend – my mother, was diagnosed with a Grade 4 GBM – the most rapid and aggressive type of brain cancer there is. Watching her pass away 16days after her diagnosis, confirmed to me that she was to be the last person that I would witness leave this world. It’s the hardest thing to say goodbye to someone that you’ve looked up to your whole life. Although it’s been close to 2yrs since her passing, and not a day goes by that I don’t think about her – I think I have dodged a bullet by having still done the odd shift (not many…but enough to pay the bills), and not been to any deaths since, and for that – I thank the universe!

I’ve had this conflict in my head with one part saying “You’ve got a good paying job…stick at it, to pay your bills” and another part saying “What is this really costing you?” The later part has now won, but it has taken some self-evaluation to come to that decision.

So my years of personal development has paid off to help me make these decisions in my life, and now I’m just trusting that everything will work out the way it’s meant to!

I look at it as if I’ve just written an awesome chapter in my book of life, and now I’ve turned the page and bring on the next!

Look, it hasn’t been all doom and gloom, and I have actually loved my career!

The feeling of gratitude and accomplishment when you save a life – is one that you just can’t describe.

Or being the first person to catch a baby as it comes into the world is amazing.

Or seeing the relief and joy on a family member’s face – when you get their loved ones heart beating again, or when they hear the cry of their child that was once not breathing, and lifeless….is something that no other job could begin to match up to.

That’s the positive side of the statement unless you’ve been there – you just wouldn’t understand’.

The long-term friendships that are more like being ‘my other family’ would have to be one of the best things that I’ve gotten from choosing to become an ambo though.

There’s a real understanding between ambos about what each other may be going through; knowing what jobs would give you the ‘highs’…and what jobs would give you the ‘lows’ ….. because they’ve been there.

So I have no regrets about being an ambo or anything in my life for that matter! Everything that I’ve done, and everything that happens – has happened for a reason and a purpose, I truly believe that. There’s a quote that I love that says

‘You can’t change what happened, but you can change how you react to it.’

-Unknown –

So, would I choose it as a career again if I was to live my life over? Absolutely! However, if I can pass on any advice to the up and coming ambos of the future – it would be to:

  1. Take care of yourself – Mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally. Being ‘brave’ is talking to people who are there to support you. It’s not a sign of weakness. You can’t look after others (patients, your family/loved ones) if you don’t look after yourself first.
  2. Treat every patient as if you were in their situation, with their problems, with their backgrounds, with their lack of understanding and support in some cases. It’s called empathy. Never lose it. Feel it, show it – and BE that rainbow in their clouds, and you will not only fulfil their needs, but keep your own heart filled. Don’t ever lose heart. We are all important as each other.
  3. Never stop having fun, enjoying and loving what you do. If you do…..it’s time to close that chapter, and find that inner spark again – in something else.
  4. Always be kind. To ALL those around you. Even if they aren’t showing kindness – keep your standards high. You are worth it.

Xox. Di.

Various pics off Camera downloaded 2013 009

Di McMath is now a Resilience Coach & NLP Coach Practitioner, Author, and owner of Platinum Potential.  

*FOLLOW UP BLOG (POSTED 6TH MARCH 2015) = https://dimcmath.wordpress.com/caring-for-the-invisible-wounds-a-former-paramedics-mission-to-help-build-resilience-in-the-lives-of-emergency-workers/

* The response to this blog – highlighted the NEED for MORE help for our Emergency Service workers, and so…..after just over 12mths of creating….A program specifically designed for those in the industry – has been created.

(video credit: Gerald Pauschmann – The Point TV)

Please watch this short (2minute) & powerful video – for an overall summary of the problem, and a solution to helping officers. (Whilst it’s based on Australian statistics….I’m very aware of the global issue – and the program is also available to countries outside of Australia).

The ‘RESILIENCE’ program for EMERGENCY SERVICE WORKERS is NOW AVAILABLE

‘Triple Zero Resilience Program’ (Triple One / Triple Nine / Nine One One – depending on your country)

Sponsoring of an officer to do the program – is very welcomed!

167 thoughts on “Unless you’ve been there, you wouldn’t understand: A Paramedics farewell to the job.

  1. from an old paramedic – yes their is a cost ,but i always saw it as a privilege to share the highs and lows which remind you every day how precious life is ,and how much human courage is out their in those who do their best to live it. its not about how we feel —its about how we can others feel ___

    Liked by 3 people

    • absolutely amazing insight to what you guys do day in and day out, I KNOW, I RECEIVED this care at the worst time of my life, I KNOW, how they looked after me , tlalked to me, held my hand, hugged me when I NEEDED IT, I KNOW!!!
      I

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m a doctor, not a paramedic. But I’m married to a paramedic and I work in ICU and retrieval.

    Thank you.

    We all need to be able to say enough is enough when it is. And we all need the support of our managers and our colleagues as well as our friends and family when we do.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. This farewell very easily could have been mine. Two years ago I abruptly left my job as a paramedic/firefighter/Division Chief. That had not been my plan and from a retirement plan, it was a little crazy. The grief of leaving the job was matched by relief that I left the job. I wrote a very similar piece to no one in particular. It was actually very helpful as part of my letting go. The stark realization is that, the very morning I left my last shift, someone else responded to the next page and someone else always would answer a page. I thought I was done and for a year and a half I basked in the low paying glory of being self employed. In the end the reality was I just needed the break. I’m not done with it and it’s not done with me. I still have work to do but I have had a little reset in my perspective. I am back to work as a paramedic and I will give my best care to my patients without giving too much of myself to the job.

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  4. My wife Denise Wheeler aggrees with your opinion. After 15 years of working all areas of San Antonio Texas she told me with tears rolling down her cheeks, “I am tired of watching babies die.” She was a paramedic that lived and breathed the streets. Loved the work. So, as her husband, I need to support her in the next chapter of her life. When it is over it is over. She has hung up her stethoscope, tape, and scissors forever. She is still talked about by other medics that worked with her. She was the BEST!!!!!!

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  5. If you can’t put it away, compartmentalize it, it will eat you up. And even then, it still will most likely eat you up.

    Malibu area beach guard 3 years, FF/8 years, Medic 12 years and counting.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I have been a paramedic for 17 years. I walked away at the end of 2012 partly due to the service closing and mostly due to I just could not do it. I had a supervisors job over to counties the only one in the company, what an achievement for me. With that came a load of disrespect for me just because I was a female, I finialy made them see that my qualifications were more than any of the males in the same positions who only had one county a piece. When I started I of course thought I could save the world, I had the training and all the confidence in the world till you loose that first pt. I got to the point I did not want to do 911 call taking pts to dialysis I was happy. I had had enough of the blood,guts,,death and abuse I could stomach.

    I went back to my nursing job in a mental hospital where I work with geriatric pts. Where I will finish my career. I may choose to work the bus a few times a month for my cards r still good. We will see.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. thank you all for your comments , it has opened my eyes to what a fool i have been . my wife just up and quit her job as a paramedic after twenty plus yrs. and i was dumbfounded and at times just a real jerk ,i couldnt for the life of me understand her reasons for quitting and as a matter of fact she never really told me any just i cant do it any more , well thanks i suppose like the posting said unless youve been there you want understand , im starting to and i got some serious apologizing to do

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  8. I left my Job as a Paramedic not by choice in April 2013 because of 2 Acute MI s in 3 days requiring a LVAD on 4/29/2013 and Heart Transplant on December 20 2013 at the age of 45.I was a EMT-Basic for 3 Years and a Paramedic for 24 Years and dispatched for 2 years for a total of 29 years I did have a 3 month break due to burnout in 2011. I miss working EMS still to this day but I realize I am alive still so retirement is worth it

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I managed to retire after 10 years in the job, the last 5 as a rapid response solo responder. Its true. even after a year out of the job, some stuff on TV or even in the street do spark memories; not all good. I will always remember the 18 year old who jumped from a car park roof, the young guy under a train, the carnage of a muliple fatal RTC. Memories that can never be erased.

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  10. I was an EMT/Paramedic for 32 years before I retired. At one time I worked for 3 different services at the same time. I loved and lived EMS. I always tried to treat patients like I would want to be treated, always tried to be comforting and supportive, but eventually the job took a toll on me, both physically and mentally. I had to transport my own mother to the hospital knowing there was nothing I could do to save her. Near the end I was very burned out, began to dread calls and question myself. I still love EMS, but will never go back. My daughter has been a paramedic for 5 years and I see a lot of my younger self in her. Word of advice: take care of others, but take better care of yourself both physically and mentally. Treat others like you want to be treated, but never put yourself in danger. Lastly, talk to your peers honestly, nonjudgmentally, and be supportive.

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  11. Glad you got out. I had to give my husband an ultimatum to make him quit as ‘the job’ was killing him. I wondered when I would come home to find him and possibly our three children dead because he finally ‘lost it’. He would not listen to a thing I said and kept up with the attitude of what else am I going to do if I can’t be a medic? He’s now been gone from the ‘service’ for 2 years and although still refuses proper treatment for his PTSD but he is moderately better, to the point that I will let him be alone with the kids again. He still misses it and doesn’t understand that he always will but until he gets proper treatment he will never have the option of going back, and likely with the proper treatment the desire will wane. All the best with your future endeavours.

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    • I just know that I’ve haven’t just made friends in the service…..I’ve created my own ‘family’ – and it won’t matter if I’m in the service or not…we’ll always be friends for life. So I’ve got not concerns about ever seeing them again.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. I don’t know Ashley if you set this up for me because I just retired (again). But so many of the things minted above has happened to and I have seen over the past 25 years.To the young Medics, if you are in this field for the PAY, GET OUT NOW. If you are in this field to save lifes and help people, continue working and continue your EDUCATION as long as you work. Remember, there will be several bad days and a few good days. The Main thing to remember, NEVER BE ASHAMED TO PRAY FOR YOUR SELF OR YOUR PATIENT.The last thing to remember is, ALWAYS BE ABLE TO GIVE YOUR LIFE FOR YOUR PATIENT OR YOUR PARDNER. May GOD BLESS.

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  13. From one medic to another… Well said. You wrapped it up in a nutshell. I’ve been there (17 years) all together. Thank you for a well written account of my experiences.

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  14. To my sister, Laura Prusaitis, who has been a paramedic for a long time, and has been through the lot described in this message from “unknown”. Your family recognizes how special and very dedicated you are to what you do. We’ve seen the strength, the courage, the heart, the compassion, and the spirit that you have displayed to do what you do. Your kids are more proud than words can describe. Your siblings and all of the family are equally proud of you, and we love you for it. Don’t give up. I know you will continue, as your work touches too many lives to ignore the rewards it brings.
    My message to you is that this brother loves you, and on behalf of all of us, Thank You. See you soon.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Thank you Di for sharing. I left Ambulance in Sept 2014 after a period of having to find excuses to convince myself to go to work every day, towards the end of my 25 years as in Intensive Care Paramedic in Melbourne Australia, I have crewed on helicopters in the Middle East, I have looked after KIngs and other dignitries, I’ve helped elderly people up off the floor, driven drunken revellers home, had cups of tea and a chat with lonely people, listened as hitmen talk casually and openly about killing someone, watching the tide of drug use change from heroin to ice…these are some of the lighter aspects of being a Paramedic…you know the other side-as do all Paramedics and I have loved (and hated) my job passionately!. The end for me was when I became unable to detach from my patient and their families any more, feeling their loss, finding myself in tears at the loss of their loved ones. The 4 year old child who died from asthma on his birthday (just happened to be my daughters birthday also) was the beginning of the end of my chosen career.

    I hope the examples that I have sited are seen along with yours and that younger Paramedics will take notice of what happens to experienced Paramedics, others may read it but as you said, will never understand “unless they’ve been there”

    Michael

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I have been a Paramedic since I started in July 1976. Yes have seen many things, not all good, BUT as for a career, I would jump at the chance of doing it all again. I to suffered PTSD, after 34 years as a Front-line Paramedic. I was stationed in the Illawarra Region, New South Wales, Australia. If I may say one thing, is that the ‘new’ paramedics that come in, please be patient , as not all patients are cooperative, so with that its’s better to understand, rather than think you are always right!

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    • Thanks ‘Paramedic000’ – Yes, I loved the job too, but I’m pleased I knew when it was time to walk away. And you’re right….patience is paramount – and also compassion and empathy I believe! 🙂

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  17. I saw this letter the other day, but not in the context of this woman or her suicide. I too have been doing this job for over 25 years now and she says it all towards the end of her letter. Take care of yourself. We don’t know how to do that. We come up in EMS just getting ourselves deeper and deeper in shit if you don’t take care of yourself. I would say, that when you have been doing the job for as long as she has, you have to find a working environment where you have to be able to slow down. I give the example of my work as a remote paramedic. Wonderful gratifing work, without all the day to day “street” BS. That kind of job at Denver EMS in a large urban environment is not sustainable. It just gets too you. And as she points out, unless you’ve been there you won’t understand. The long hours, the chronic loss of sleep, poor dietary, lack of exercise, lack of a spiritual core… need I go on. If you have been there, you know what I am talking about. And employers do not have the tools or resources to be able to help. They are in a position to fill a position with any competent paramedic, and they are not in a position to really care about the individual or the lack of support generally not recieved in EMS as a whole.

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    • Thanks for your comment Bryan. I have to say that I was a little bit confused at the start when your said “I saw this letter the other day, but not in the context of this woman or her suicide” – Um…just to clarify – I’m alive and well!! The rest of your comment – yes, I agree with you. Although I am trying to make it my mission to make more ‘positive resilience / mentally fit’ ambos out there. So watch this space 😉 . Thanks for your message!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you for the message Christina. I was informed late yesterday. I am gutted. Truly gutted. 😦 My heart goes out to all. Please take care of your mates. xx

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      • Bryan – since posting my reply to your message….I have since learnt of the devastating and heartbreaking news of the Denver Paramedic – Debbie Crawford. I am truly gutted, and have no words to express how deeply saddened I am to hear of this news 😦 . My deepest sympathies go out to her family, friends, colleagues, and wider community – as they try to come to terms with her loss. I would want nothing more than to prevent another ambo from feeling like they had no other option but to end their life, and now I just feel so heavy hearted over what has happened. This blog was written to explain to my immediate friends, family and fellow and future QAS colleagues – why I made the decision to resign from the service…and posted on my own personal facebook page. I truly am so sorry for her loss…..words just cannot explain 😦

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  18. Hi Di, many thanks for your touching article and for opening your heart and soul to all of your EMS journey. I have been there and back a few times in my career, the first was in 1996. I have been called/dragged back a few times since then. EMS is like the Hotel California: “You can check out anytime you like… but you can never leave” the memories, faces, successes and failures will always be with us. They dim at times over the years and therapy has helped me to move them to the side, but they are always there. Writing has been of immense help, I am currently writing about my experiences as a medic in Africa, 25 countries in 25 years! Not sure if it will veer see the light of day, but from a healing perspective, it has been amazing, but also very painful.

    These days I find myself teaching, writing, consulting and working part time in EMS (road and flight), and I still get that initial rush, as I did in the beginning, when treating, responding too or thinking about the patient I am going to be treating…but that is a story for another day/blog/discussion…

    But back to your article Di, many thanks again for opening up your life to us and sharing your deepest EMS secrets, it is very special, thank you…

    Fond regards from across the waters.. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Very well said. This article should be required reading for anyone considering a career in Police/Fire/EMS. I too gladly donned the uniform day in and day out for a total of 11 years, 4 as a volunteer medic and 7 professionally as a Firefighter/medic. I loved the job and tried my hardest to approach every call from the perspective of the patient, trying to put myself in their shoes and treating them how I would want to be treated if I were in their situation. Until one day, murder suicide struck too close to home. Counseling was offered many times, but I never accepted it. I new that if I just got back to doing what I loved that i would be OK.

    I went back to work and fell back into the routine….but this time there was always a burning thought in the back of my mind…how will i handle that kind of call. Six months later I would find out when a call came in for a gunshot to the head. As i jumped on the rig, all my thoughts went into overdrive, and as with any medic, the training takes over and I’m running through my mind what I’m going to do when we get there. We arrive on scene to find a beautiful young woman, “accidentally” shot in the head as her spouse was cleaning his handgun. We began to work her, but it quickly became obvious that there would be nothing we could do for her and in consultation with the ER doc we called it. Not sure what happened, but the next thing I remember is sitting on a curb across the street sobbing with my captain telling me my wife was coming to pick me up. That was the beginning of the end of my career as a Paramedic. I began to dread coming in to work, the little things that happen every day in the station began to get to me…things that I had never given a second thought too before, now were gnawing at me and forced me a few months later to resign and leave the one thing I felt i was put on this earth do do. Help was available, it was offered, but that attitude that we all have that “we can handle whatever comes our way”, kept me from accepting it.

    We are exposed to some of the worst things that people can do to each other outside of combat. And as has been said before, those images and thoughts will be burned in our minds forever. Its how we choose to deal with them that will determine how we get through it. Talk to your friends, family, your co-workers. Don’t keep those things bottled up inside. They will at one point or another come out in ways that can and will affect your life and those around you in negative ways. Accept the fact that we too are human, and maybe we can’t handle everything that comes our way.

    All these years later I’m in a much better place. I truly miss my days as a Paramedic and I still feel the rush when I hear sirens and see the rigs go by and I find myself running through scenarios in my mind of what they will find when they get there….the training still taking over. I feel honored that I was given the opportunity to serve my community and got to do and see things that few people do and that there are people out there today who’s lives i’ve impacted in a positive way.

    – Unless you’ve been there, you wouldn’t understand – So true.

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  20. I came out of the job ( as we called it ) because of ill health after 12 years . I was advised not to go back by my wife , the local doctor the job doctor and practically everybody that I knew . It was the toughest decision ever to me but it all makes sense now after a few years on early retirement . I wouldn’t have been able to tell the dying patient in my care that everything was going to be all right when I knew it was not . I still see those professional people in the ambulances and yes I am jealous for a few minutes but then im not . they do the most respectful and wanted jobs in the world as do the others in the emergency services such as the fire service etc, . They deserve more than the pittance that they are being paid but our wonderful fucking government wont give them more they will take more from those wonderful people and just think those carers in the services are so caring that they wont even strike for the more that they deserve because they think of us and how much we need them when we are in trouble .I say god bless you and for those of you that can keep going I will as I hope everyone will respect you forever . For those of you that have to give it up I don’t blame you maybe if the government realized how tough your job is they might pay more . Thanks for everything guys without you where would we be ?

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  21. Very sad to hear that the writer of this article took her own life, I have been a medic in Canada for over 31 years. I have seen a lot of tragedy over the years, things you never forget. One thing, I have found that helps is to talk about your feelings and thoughts. After a serious call whether it’s a suicide, a house fire or a terrible road accident, talk about it to anyone who will listen. It’s has helped me over the years – it puts some closure on whatever happened and allows you to move forward. You never forget but at least you can deal with it. Exercise, eat well, laugh a lot, have fun and do something you enjoy each day! Being a medic takes courage, it’s not always easy – strive to be your best!

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    • Hi Ian,
      Thanks for your comment – but it wasn’t me. Sadly and tragically, and with a very heavy heart – I’ve been made aware that it was a Paramedic in Denver – Debbie Crawford. May your soul RIP Debbie, and may your friend/family/colleague and wider paramedic community find strength amongst themselves to be there to support each other. My love and thoughts are with you all. xxx

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  22. Di, As a medic for the last 26 years I too know all too well many of the feelings that have been expressed. I never knew how to put into words what has been said. You get home and and even married to a RN that had done ambo & ER time, they don’t understand. It really hit me about 15 years ago when I went to a common address for us, that I had spent more time with this older couple than their family had. I even knew who to call for the death notification. Then to have the family I called thank me for taking care of mom & dad the way I had, I knew there had to be a better way to earn a living. Well I have lasted but at what cost? I encourage any perspective medic/emt/firefighter/police to read this. Back in the day we just told to suck it up and move the %$#& along. You will get used to it. Well ya don’t. The kids and the young are the toughest for me. After one bad Prom night I worked I took every prom off. Not sure I ever told anybody why, still don’t want to share I guess. It is the most exciting, soul crushing job you will ever love. I still remember too way too many of the calls. How does anyone do that job and not be changed by it. Management is not the answer, had my chance there, education isn’t any better. If you are at the point you have to talk yourself into putting the uniform on, find something you are passionate about and go do it before you too end up one of the calls. Lastly THANK YOU so much for this post.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. I am just starting out my ems career. I have 8 clinical hours standing between me and being able to take the state and national registry paramedic exams. I am worried about depression and anxiety (which I am currently struggling greatly with) but I couldn’t imagine doing anything else with my life. In the few months I’ve been working as a paramedic for class requirements, I’ve already seen the “frequent fliers” some commonly get grumpy about, the devastated families after I’ve told them that their loved one has passed and there is nothing I can do, mothers terrified of their child’s addiction and begging us to do whatever we can to save their “baby”, mothers and fathers of our coworkers fighting for their lives while we do everything in our knowledge and the protocols to ease their suffering and save them… And still, with the problems I face right now, even before my career has officially started, there is nothing else I would rather do than be a paramedic. And I thank you all for your service. You risk your lives every day to help others. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Amber, thanks for your message. I would suggest that if you haven’t already done so…put your hand up and chat to some of your colleagues. Let them know what’s bothering you, because if you don’t….sweeping them under the carpet will just create a pile of crap that gets harder to deal with later. It IS a great job…and I’m sure you’ll have some great times! – It’s just so important (and healthy) to look after yourself first. I will be posting another blog in the near future, to give some tips to maintaining a healthy mindset. Stay tuned – but in the meantime….grab a cuppa with a mentor/colleague – and have a chat. 🙂 xx

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    • I have a combined total of 22 years on the ambulance, first as a volunteer EMT-B, up to a Regional Supervisor Medic. I have worked on busy inner city rigs, and laid back rural ones with 40 + minute transport times. I’m sure that you have finished your clinicals and hopefully passed state and registry. But my advice to you is if you’re already struggling with depression/anxiety then this is not the job for you. You will end up broken and damaged. You can’t force something to be, if it just isn’t right.

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      • Thanks for your message Bill….yes, I was fully qualified – and in the job for a total of nearly 15yrs. Was the advice to me specifically, or to any newcomers into the job? If it was for me – then I appreciate the concern, but as I mentioned in the blog – I have implemented years of personal development that has taught me healthy ways to maintain my mental health (as well as I made sure I always ‘vented’ to the work counsellor when needed). My second blog (link at the bottom of this blog) also gives some steps for people struggling. (‘Caring for the invisible wounds….etc etc). 🙂

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    • Thanks for your words….but there still seems to be some confusion. It was not me. I will be posting another blog over the next week and it will explain some things. Kind Regards, Di McMath

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  24. Thanks, DI, for your very eloquent article. I was a paramedic for 22 years, 20 of them on the road. After the first five years, I became a police officer, but continued to work as many days as I could. In 1995, I was in a patrol car accident, and had a concussion. Needless to say, every two years, recertification got harder and harder. Finally, it was time to get out.

    The WORST thing, to this day, is people at parties, or social gatherings, wanting to here “War Stories”. Yeah, thanks for making me relive it, just for your morbid entertainment. I’ve been off the street for almost 12 years now. The dreams are fewer now, and I’m grateful of that.

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  25. I said those exact same words “I just can’t do this anymore” after 16 years on the ambulance where I thought I would be the tough one and stay there till retirement age. Thankfully there was an opportunity to still be an Advanced Care Paramedic in a calmer setting where I have been working for 9 years. Two corn dogs with mustard and giggling as soon as the theme music started to play as I watched Corner Gas were part of my mental therapy after intense calls. The nightmares have gone but the memories can still bring me to tears. Yet, working on the ambulance were the best career years of my life. There was fast and slow paced days; happy with periodic belly-laugh days; miracles and – not; the personal Thank You’s made me know that this calling in my life made a difference in someone else’s.

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  26. I can relate…22 years with QAS until leaving for greener pastures. During that 22 years I had several short sabbaticals into other employment to reset using long service leave etc. Every body needs a way to relax, unwind, reset, unload. For current and future medics…..find your outlet…. talk to your loved ones and let them read this…….Di exceptional writing.

    My wife is currently at 20 years with QAS and is coming to realise while she still loves her career and is an incredible paramedic, injuries are piling up making it a physical challenge every shift. We are looking for a suitable career for her to transition to….

    Yes it is a rewarding career but remember, Be a medic for the right reason and leave for the right reasons. If you are in it for the money….come drive trains…..If you are humanitarian….be passionate, empathetic and competent.

    I left and have 4 years loving my new career driving trains…..double the money, no stress and no complaints from the coal in the back.

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  27. As a retired Police Officer who witnessed the most terrible things I too suddenly realised that my I had lost the ability to feel as human’s are meant to feel. I could feign empathy when required and ‘hide’ any evidence of being affected by what I saw, heard or even touched. The faces of those who’s lives impacted upon and the faces of those who scarred me always remain. The demons only seem to come at night when the world is asleep. They have not beaten me but now we are equals. Thank you Di

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  28. Very wise words and spot on advice. Been a paramedic for over twenty years now and have thought of quiting on more than one occasion. The reason I haven’t, as my wife states, it’s what I do best. Yes at times I hate the politics, that ungrateful patient and the shifts where I don’t seem to stop all day coming home to another cold meal. But when it goes right and that life is saved, that greatfull look the relative gives you, shakes your hand with a simple ‘thankyou’ reminds me that I have the best job in the world!
    Guess I’ll be here till I retire……. it’s what I do best!

    Liked by 1 person

  29. 20 years this year, 11 were triple cert fire medic cop and I’m at that point. I’ve tried 3xs to leave and start another career with it lasting only months before I return back to the box. I don’t know anything else and can’t afford to go back to school so here I am doing what I truly love but can’t handle anymore. I put on a hell of a show but when I go home I’m not who I used to be. I still love the job and what I do but like so many say I’m sick of the dead dying and hurt those not able to get help or help themselves, those stuck in poverty and family ignoring them, or the “death farms” or nursing homes we run to that pts are neglected daily and not truly cared for. But I put on the look like nothings wrong and try like hell to be the light or smile for these ppl just to give them an inkling of hope for that hour or so we have them. I wouldn’t and don’t want anyone else to see and witness the events we go thru so I continue to get up do my 48/48 shifts and do all I can.

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    • Hey Chuck, FInd a way or a speciality to get away it will eat you alive, go to dog handler, training officer, gun bunny, range officer, property clerk, school resource officer no scratch that one. Anything is better than the brave face, did that for the last 10 years, 1 divorce, 1 child that will speak to me and one that asks for money. My fault I am sure but dude find a way to something else. I have been out for just over a year and just now starting the healing process, maybe?

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      • I would but idk what I would honestly do that will pay enough to make ends meet. Working as a medic in the oilfield was great, but for the 2nd time I was laid-off again so I’m back on the box. It’s almost impossible to get a job in an ER bc most facilities won’t call you back or tend to loose your application. I’ve let my fire and police certs go once I went to the oilfield.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Chuck, I did a year in Iraq and loved it. You are used to the time away already and the pay was great then. 5 bills a day. Not sure what pay is now. Go international and I will send you the link, http://www.your-poc.com I have no experience with them but it is a lead at least.

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  30. I agree wholeheartedly with your assessment of the profession. It’s core mission is to provide care and service in an emergency. Unfortunately, society has placed a low (monetary) value on what we do. Mental health in public safety personnel has only recently become a topic. In the United States we have the same problems of low pay, long hours, multiple jobs, and lack of adequate resources. Many busier jurisdictions simply can’t afford more medic units or more staff to provide down time in between runs (or shouts in the U.K.). We live in a country (and a world) where fast food workers strike for $15 an hour while most EMT’s, Paramedics, and Firefighters make well below that.
    In the U.S. in the urban areas we run into consistent abuse of the system as our primary problem. I often struggle with hate and resentment towards my patients and my management alike. The patients who we transport every day for the same thing. Constant taxi rides to the hospital listening to the stories about how they have been on government assistance since 25 because they have anxiety. Meanwhile, I work 75 to 80 hours a week at 3 jobs to cover my living expenses. Then next shift it’s the same thing. The system doesn’t lend itself to fixing. It lends itself to repeated abuse without consequence.
    The overnights are the worst. Repeatedly being up for 24 hours straight has wreaked havoc on my and my colleagues health. The call volume continues to climb as the population ages, and more and more people see EMS and the ER as their primary care physician. The constantly erratic sleep patterns have left me tired most of the time, and inability to focus, lost time with family, and fear of the long-term effects on my health. Am I destined for a heart attack at 40 because of unregulated sleep? Is the trade off worth it? Did I truly make a difference staying up those nights? The answer for me is no. I merely provided the service of a glorified taxi driver. It’s been said to my face before, “I called the ambulance because I don’t have enough money for a taxi. You don’t charge right now.” So that’s my life’s work? That’s why I went to school? Studied medicine? Ran call after call until I couldn’t keep my eyes open? My struggle is the opposite end of the spectrum of yours, but it is a struggle all the same.
    I applaud your decision to leave. I am on the same path, but for different reasons. I can no longer muster compassion for the sick and injured because of the aforementioned abuses. I have showed compassion for patients before. Only to be taken advantage of. To be verbally abused, assaulted, exposed to diseases for no other reason than they wanted to spit at me because they were drunk. All for less than a fast food worker thinks he is “entitled” to. A proper “living wage”. I am forced to dig deep when I actually experience a legitimate emergency. Sometimes I find no compassion, no caring. Only a cold lack of empathy for anyone and anything. That scares me. I used to love people. I used to relish the opportunity to have conversations about shared interests, dreams, and goals. No longer. That scares me. It’s like watching a movie of yourself. You see where you started, and realize that you are no longer that awesome personality with gumption and motivation that you once were. Relationships with people suffer. My personal relationships suffer. My relationship with others suffer. My sense of gallow’s humor is misunderstood by most outside of public safety. I hesitate to achieve close relationships for fear of disappointment, or actually caring about someone only to lose them suddenly. To the become vulnerable again.
    For those reasons I respect your decision. I envy you. While I blame nobody for where I am today, I have taken steps to leave. Out of respect for those that take this job seriously as I no longer can, out of obligation to the legitimate patient who deserves a caring provider, and out of necessity.

    Liked by 1 person

  31. My wife & I have also been there, some times we do mention the bad times but we also talk about the funny or humorous times. Some people have said we should publish a book about some of the unbelievable things

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  32. It’s been 20 years since I have practiced EMS. I spent many years in terrible places, and your post is spot on. To this day 20 years later, I have vivid memories of all my calls. I remember the good one, and I still have nightmares over the bad ones. What an underpaid and unappreciated profession, but I am very happy i was able to serve my communities and save some lives in the process. #lifeinthetruck #911

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    • Wow Wayne….that’s a really poor pay rate!! The rates are significantly different in Australia (vary in every state – but Qld is on average $29/hr for qualified officer). How do they survive?!!

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  33. Never worked a day in my 24 years of experience as a paramedic, until I met PTSD. Until I was failed by my employer, my union and WorkSafe BC. Now, as I live below the poverty line, still with no treatment my life’s work is the advocacy I do lobbying our government to write a presumptive clause. To save a life that may follow in my footsteps and honor those who have taken their own lives.

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  34. I’ve retired as an ambulance officer after 35 years, working first for $ 2.00 a patient, $ 2.00 for a deceased and $ 1.00 for a welfare case. I’ve worked also as a dispatcher where I moved to after complaining about the way we were being dispatched. Central dispatching started with taxi drivers as it was believed that there knowledge of the area was primordial. When I finished, I was making around $ 65,000.00 a year. I believe that making the paramedic aspect the main function is part of the problem. In my times, we use to do transfer and emergency calls, so we had some time to decompress between emergency calls, we went on the hospital floor to drop-off or pick up patient, did long distance transfers all over the Province and even one to New York City. I was also a good way to learn the rope in handling equipment and learning to drive emergencies. Doing only emergency calls asking to be depressed. For your information, the medical show which is the most true to life was “MASH”. That’s how you decompress, by playing trick, having fun and still remain concerned about things we cannot change, like mostly forgetting that death is inevitable, we will all go that way eventually. I personally find
    today’s paramedics are usually thinking of themselves as God on the road, trying to prove all the time that they are primordial instead of getting that patient to the emergency ward ASAP. I can understand stopping to do a procedure, but waiting for the effect to take instead of driving on to the hospital is wasteful to me. Ambulance services should also have non urgent units so that one can be still involved but can take it easy. Helping to clear the backlog at the emergency ward by taking patient home can make space for those patients still on ambulance stretchers and the same is true for taking patients home from the floor as this allow the hospital emergency ward to move patient to those beds and speed up space for incoming emergencies.

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  35. I worked as a firefighter/medic for only a brief 5 years in a major metro area, very heavy call volume, high crime, high poverty, infant mortality of a third world country (no exaggeration, fact). I loved it and sometimes hated it. I miss it. I was given a dx of myasthenia gravis so I resigned because I didn’t want to risk the lives of my brothers because my muscles could fail me and they depended on me to have their back as they had mine. I have random moments when I find myself in tears and I don’t know why. I hate when I’m watching a movie with my husband and I’m suddenly thrust back to a car fire and the people trapped and screaming or the little girl shot in a drive by a week before Christmas that we work though we know it’s far too late. I feel guilt more than anything that I didn’t do enough. My husband kindly reminds me that I did more in 5 years for humanity than most will do in a lifetime. That’s why I love him.

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  36. After nearly 34 years, I totally agree with ALL you have said. I suffered from PTSD, after a high speed accident, as we were going to a person not breathing. My partner and I were on night shift, and had completed 13.5 hours, and had 1/2 hour to go till knock off time. I was told by senior management “You have been in the job long enough now to get over it, SO get over it!!!! ” This guy knew nothing of how I was feeling, emotionally, mentally, or that to get into another Ambulance on siren runs were devastating to my emotions. Yes loved my job, could treat my patients, BUT to get to them was a mental challenge for me to go through, every time!!!!

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  37. Nicely Said. I hung up the uniform of a medic 8 years ago. after a break, I switched gears to an RN. It didn’t strike me as to what I faced until I was talking with one of the Cardiologists I work with about a call I was on and made the comment that sometimes the worst thing we could do for the patient was “rescue” them. After explaining what can happen when you roll the dash off of someone’s pelvis, he commented to me that he’d have to remember my story next time he had a cath/procedure going bad because “someone else somewhere else could be having it far worse”

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