Ask the Paramedic

Since it came up in another thread and we’ve had a bunch of EMS-related threads lately I thought I’d start this thread.

Here’s my background info. I’ve been a paramedic for 5 years, and I was an EMT-B for 5 years before that. I currently work on a 911 ambulance in the Denver Metro area. I’m a supervisor, and I’ve been a field trainer in the past.

Ask away!

So, tell us some of the weirdest/funniest/saddest/happiest experiences you’ve had. And how many babies have you had to deliver?

What made you decide to go into this line of work?

Is being a paramedic the kind of job that you can keep doing until retirement? Is it really demanding physically - would you have to transition to doing more administrative type work?

I’ve delivered one baby. I’ve come close to delivering about a half-dozen more. Either the baby came before we got there or after we got to the hospital. That would definitely go down as the happiest experience I’ve had. It is also cool to see someone you’ve trained become a successful EMT or paramedic.

I’ve worked nights for a long time, so the weirdest call category has lots of competition. It generally involves drugs or alcohol, too. One of the more recent ones that comes to mind was the guy who called 911 at 3:45 in the morning because he couldn’t sleep. He spent a good amount of time trying to get us to go into his bedroom, which was dark and in the back of the house. Needless to say we didn’t go back there, and we had the cops stop by. Eventually he told us that he wanted us to go to the 7-11 to get him some sleeping pills! This was particularly funny because his house was 3 blocks from one 7-11 and 10 blocks from another one.

Saddest I’m going to take a pass on.

As for why I do it, it’s just always something I wanted to do. I was a lifeguard in high school, and kind of progressed from there, through EMT to paramedic.

It’s tough- there’s a lot of lifting both of patients and equipment. Our jump kits and monitor/defibrillators aren’t particularly light.

I’ve read that the average EMS career is about 5 years and I know that injuries play a large role in that. There are some people who stick through until retirement, but most people leave for jobs with better pay and better hours.

Do you ever find out what happens to people once you get them to the hospital? That might drive me nuts…I wonder what ever happened to that guy with a fencepost through his belly?

::Waves to St. Urho::

We’ve posted many of the same threads. I’m an EMT-B in a recreational (volunteer for the rest of y’all) rescue squad, and I’m finishing my first year.

Since I’m a geezer and I have a day job that pays very well, I have no aspirations beyond -I and RT certifications.

Nothing to ask other than, can I join your Amen chorus?

The hospital that we go to the most is good about follow-up, but most of the other hospitals are pretty spotty. It’s best when we go back to the hospital a few hours later with another patient. I can usually catch the nurse or doctor and ask “How’s our guy in 10 doing?”

VunderBob- feel free to chime in. :slight_smile:

Have you ever had to treat someone you knew? Or is that scenario pretty unlikely to happen?

I ask because I recently recertified my first aid and CPR and the instructor told us a story about how he used to be a paramedic but he had to respond to an accident where his father was horribly injured (and is now permanently disabled). The paramedic thought at first that he was okay with it, but he ended up with PTSD and is no longer a paramedic.

Were you ever threatened while trying to transport a patient, like by the person who caused the injuries or by a combative patient? I have a coworker who used to be a paramedic or EMT (sorry, don’t recall which) but she had one too many encounters with, say, the probable causes behind the GSW they were trying to transport, and decided to switch to a calmer healthcare-based career.

I work in a large enough area that that’s fairly unlikely to happen. That said, I have treated some co-workers, as well as law enforcement officers and firefighters that I know. So far I’ve done okay, but there’s really no way to predict what will and won’t bother you.

I’ll provide thumbnails of the happiest and saddest stories I have.

Happiest is the one baby I almost delivered. She would have been 3 months premature had we not gotten mom to the hospital and labor stopped. The baby went to full term, and is a defacto goddaughter.

Saddest personal is the 39 year old mom who went into cardiac arrest and didn’t make it.

Saddest vicarious story is the day the son of one of the other squad members was killed in a wreck; his mom was on duty and took the call.

The oddest was the day I had to participate in a Pentecostal laying on of the hands before the family would let us take the patient to the hospital.

Do you ever find yourself making assumptions about your patients? For example, a couple of weeks, I was at a bar in the late afternoon. A person came in, ordered a drink and collapsed after 2 sips. I could tell that the paramedics were already thinking the person was a drunk and was incredibly intoxicated. He wasn’t.

I live in a very rural area, so it’s common. The last call I was involved was my neighbor lady across the road. She fell and broke her femur.

Yes, more than I care to think about. I’ve been punched, kicked, spit on, yelled at, and had a gun pulled on me once. :eek: Usually it’s combative patients rather than assailants. Typically, either the police have the scene controlled or we make a solid entry in the World’s Shortest Scene Times competition.

The service I work for has a pretty liberal restraint protocol, both with physical and chemical restraints. We carry arm and leg restraints in all our ambulances and paramedics can use Versed for sedation and chemical restraint. We also carry spit socks- a mosquito-netting like hood for those patients who choose to spit.

I strive to give all my patients a full assessment. It’s an easy trap to fall into, but I try to remember that drunks get sick too and there are life-threatening conditions that can mimic alcohol intoxication, including stroke and hypoglycemia. Failing to fully assess these people will eventually come back to bite you.

What’s the drive like? Are people generally good or bad about letting the ambulance through?

People’s driving sucks! Most people are oblivious and most of the rest of them do something stupid. Unfortunately, a lot of EMTs/paramedics and firefighters drive like assholes, too. I’ve seen way too many people pass inappropriately, not clear intersections, and push people through red lights.

Generally speaking, if an emergency vehicle is approaching from behind you, pull to the right and stop. If you’re at a red light, stay put. You’re NOT allowed to go through the red light. A responsible driver will shut off the lights and siren and wait for the light to turn green. Sometimes, on streets with solid barriers and lots of traffic, it’s necessary for people in the right lane to pull right and people in the left lane to pull left and let the ambulance through the middle. In that situation, just do what everybody else is doing. That’s pretty much it.

I’ll jump in, if I may.
I work for a private ambulance company, and also ride with a volunteer fire company. Most of the private ambo stuff is hospital transfers, dialysis appointments, but we sometimes get priority calls.

Ooh, ooh, I’ll take this one! Most of the time, yes, but all too often, people are just clueless. I’ve run right up on people’s rear ends (their cars!), lights going and siren blaring, and they don’t move. I’ll lay on the airhorn, and they finally look in their mirror, and casually move to the right, as if they have all the time in the world.

OTOH, I’ve pulled up to stoplights, not running priority, just a basic transport or going back after a call, and had cars suddenly pull over and get out of the way. Only when the lights and siren are on, moron! :stuck_out_tongue:

As for calls…
I’ve never delivered a baby, but I’d love to. We were transferring an 8-months pregnant woman from the local walk-in clinic to a hospital for vomiting and flu symptoms. The doctor at the clinic assured us she wasn’t in labor. On the trip, I asked a couple of times if she was in any discomfort or if she was having any pain … trying to determine if she was having contractions. She kept saying no, she was fine, no pain. When we got her to the hospital, in her bed in the labor and delivery floor, she turned to the nurse and said, “You know, I’m having these weird rhythmic pains. They come and go about every three or four minutes.” I nearly died.

I’ve had a couple odd laying-on-of-hands experiences like VunderBob described.

Been shot at two times. (well, once we were just in the general area dropping off a patient. My partner said, “Did you hear that? Was that fireworks?”
Cops came by and told us to skedaddle. Didn’t need to tell me twice.)

Been yelled at, threatened, spit on, cursed at, vomited on, kicked and hit numerous times. I’ve had many Alzheimer’s patients threaten to kill me, which is usually kind of funny when it comes from a 100-pound, 80-year-old lady.