EMT working on patient in ambulance

9 Common Misconceptions About EMS Work

While there is an abundance of information at your disposal, there are also numerous misconceptions about the field of Emergency Medical Services (EMS). In an effort to clear up some of these misconceptions, we’ve compiled a list of the most common ones from professionals with firsthand experience.

Read on to dispel some popular myths with us!


1. CPR looks like what you see on TV or in the movies: According to a user called LucidResq on an EMTLIFE forum, many shows and movies depict “Baywatch-style CPR” that brings people back to life and “standing and talking in minutes.” Unfortunately, this isn’t how it usually works in the real world.

2. Helicopters are always necessary: Helicopters seem to be a staple of medical dramas. Another insight from LucidResq, his comments on EMTLIFE explain that helicopters are not useful for almost every call. They do, however, make frequent appearances on various shows.

3. Paramedics are “ambulance drivers”: In a Quora post about paramedic misconceptions, EMT-P Anderson Moorer explains that he has seen others commonly mistake paramedics for ambulance drivers. Paramedics receive rigorous, intensive training in various areas, and the training they receive for operating an ambulance is arguably low in comparison.

4. EMS workers can use sirens whenever they’d like: Anderson Moorer further explains in his Quora post that medics cannot turn on their lights or sirens whenever the whim strikes. Lights and sirens are typically ordered by the dispatch center as a way to prioritize emergency calls. For instance, if a patient has life-threatening injuries they would obviously be prioritized first.

5. All medics can treat injured pets: Anderson Moorer also discusses wounded animals in his Quora post. Unfortunately, it’s a misconception that most medics have the equipment, training, or necessary access—particularly to a vet hospital—to provide the necessary care for an injured pet.

6. Paramedics can fight fires or criminals: Another point in Anderson Moorer’s Quora post raises the issue of safety. According to Moorer, some people believe paramedics can fight a fire or even “shoot a bad guy.” In the post, he further explains that “people understandably get very upset when a paramedic arrives at a call where some other emergency service must act first.” For instance, paramedics can’t go into a house where someone has been shot before the police arrive.

7. If EMS workers arrive in under nine minutes, resuscitation is all but ensured: In this article from EMS1, Drew Johnson delves into EMS myths and examines Dr. Bryan Bledsoe’s work. Being an emergency physician and EMS author, Dr. Bryan Bledsoe has an extensive history in the medical field. Bledsoe has previously argued that reaching your patient in under nine minutes does not guarantee resuscitation. In fact, as Drew Johnson states in the article, Bledsoe “cited research showing that the duration most highly correlated with patient survival is four minutes.”

8. Having your own AED at home will save lives: For those who don’t know, an automated external defibrillator (AED) is a device that detects heart rhythms and is capable of sending an electric shock to a heart to try and restore a normal rhythm (AEDs are used to treat sudden cardiac arrest). Some champion the importance of home AEDs, as the period before help arrives is absolutely critical.

        In Drew Johnson’s article from EMS1, he explains that AEDs are certainly “associated with improved resuscitation rates.” However, the location of the home AED “accounts for patient survival” rather than its presence. While public AEDs are often successful, this success rate doesn’t translate to private areas.

        Johnson quotes Bledsoe, who believes a combination of factors are responsible, such as: some people may forget where they have stored the AED in their home—this is particularly stressful since time is of the essence during cardiac arrest—while others may have a deep emotional attachment to the person that needs to be saved. It can be extremely traumatic and difficult to use an AED on someone you know rather than a stranger in a public setting.

9. Paramedics are not healthcare professionals: In a VICE interview with paramedic Nate Boyce, Zach Sokol asks if there are any misconceptions about Boyce’s profession that he would like to address. Boyce had this to say: “People who are paramedics are true healthcare professionals and I think a lot of times that’s kind of lost. We provide surprisingly advanced care. Not only do we have the ability to treat really life-threatening illnesses, but we make people feel better.”


Without a doubt, EMS workers provide an invaluable service to the public. We thought Nate Boyce made an excellent point: EMS workers not only save lives, but they actively make others feel better and alleviate suffering. If you’re interested in the field of EMS, Unitek EMT offers Emergency Medical Technician training. Along with an intensive boot camp, online EMT training is also available from some locations.

For more information about Unitek EMT, please don’t hesitate to contact us at 888-790-1458.