You might be training to become an Emergency Medical Services (EMS) worker. Alternatively, you might already be in the field, or perhaps you’ve only been contemplating a career in EMS. Regardless, it can be helpful to read tips from the driven, compassionate individuals in this business.
We’ve compiled a list of advice about EMS work, EMS workers, and those affected by EMS. Some of these tips are directly from seasoned veterans, while others are ones we’ve heard in passing.
We hope this list helps you!
1. Always remember your equipment: This tip is from Jody Marks’s article at EMS World, “Most Likely to Succeed: Advice for New EMTs & Paramedics.” An EMS veteran, Jody Marks has been a paramedic for 14 years. In the article, he explains that you should always bring your stocked EMS bag with you: “The most important equipment is packed in a bag for a reason. Take it. It is a giant pain in the butt until you actually need it.”
2. Write everything down and be consistent: Arthur Hsieh spoke about tips for documentation in his EMS 1 article, “6 top tips for EMS documentation.” The two that stuck with us the most may seem simple, but they are critical to the safety of both the patient and the provider. Because some may skip—or feel compelled—to rush through documentation, these two tips need to be reiterated as much as possible.
+ Write everything down. It’s vital that you document the condition of the patient, the treatments provided, the patient’s response, etc. As Arthur Hsieh notes, “We also record for research purposes, quality improvement, and reimbursement.” Without a doubt, documentation is absolutely vital.
+ Be as consistent as possible. In his article, Arthur Hsieh explains that there isn’t one correct way to document. He argues that the best way is to be consistent with the techniques you do use. “Don’t change it just because you don’t transport a patient, or if it’s a BLS versus ALS patient,” Arthur states. “The more consistent you are, the less likely that you will forget to chart something.”
3. Treat every patient with respect and dignity: This is another tip from Jody Marks’s article at EMS World. While reading, Jody said something that really struck a chord with us. He states that, in his experience, most patients are not that sick. However, most patients are convinced they’re sick. When confronted with this, Jody explains, “It is not our job to convince them otherwise.” Above all else, you are the patient’s advocate. Treat them kindly, and treat them well. A gentle touch or a kind word can go a long way.
4. Take care of your body and learn how to properly lift: Because EMS workers spend so much time on the go, it’s important that they eat well and develop healthy habits. Additionally, they must learn how to lift correctly. It can be very taxing on the body to lift patients without proper training. Some also suggest working out on your days off, lifting weights, doing full-body exercises like squats, etc. Staying strong will only benefit you in the long run.
5. Cultivate a life outside of EMS work: Yet another great tip from Jody Marks, this one is vital to your happiness and future success. Jody encourages new EMTs and Paramedics to resist making EMS their entire identity. He explains that your self-worth should not be tied to what happens at work. While noble and often rewarding, EMS shouldn’t dominate your life. There still needs to be room for friendships, hobbies, and other interests.
6. Accept that you will make some mistakes: This one is easier said than done, but try not to beat yourself up over your mistakes. It is impossible to be perfect 100% of the time, and you will inevitably make mistakes. You should always learn from them, though, and do your absolute best next time. In fact, never stop learning—read books, analyze articles, sign up for classes, and speak with other healthcare providers. Experience and proper training may be the best teachers, but it’s always a good idea to learn more.
Sometimes EMS work is about saving lives, but it is always about caring for people in need. We hope you have found these tips helpful, and we wish you the best of luck in all your EMS endeavors!