How to be an EMT student

We all had to do intern time, third rides, student rides, ride-alongs, whatever you want to call it. When I was doing my third rides, we had a 4 hour class devoted to how we were to present ourselves and behave during our rides. Obviously, students these days do not go through a similar orientation. So, allow me to give upcoming students some hints.


Several points for students:


  • Getting to your scheduled third ride on time is probably the most important thing you can do. I know this is early in the morning and all. You had all weekend to prepare for this ride. Perhaps you shouldn’t have stayed up to watch the Jets beat the Ravens. We show up 15 minutes prior to our shift time, so we can check our truck off and restock as needed. More on that in a minute.
  • Please don’t show up with your shirt untucked and yawning. This is a serious business, and I’m not going to take you seriously if you look like crap. I know you are tired from watching the aforementioned Sunday Night Football game, but suck it up and wake up.
  • Don’t show up here with a cigarette in your mouth. We aren’t allowed to smoke on company property, or hospital grounds, for that matter. Which means you will have precious little time to smoke your cigarettes. So give it up for a day.  As a former smoker, I know how tasty cigarettes can be in the morning.  But people won’t take you seriously if you smell like an ashtray.  Just don’t smoke.  It’s 12 hours.  You can do it.
  • Help my partner and I check off the truck. If I ask you for the nasal airways, I need you to know which cabinet they are in. (The answer is cabinet 2, by the way.)  We don’t necessarily like checking the truck off, but it’s a necessary part of the job. Your willingness to help will go a long way.
  • Bring your book. Or notebook. Bring something to read aside from some wrestling magazines.
  • Shave. ‘Nuff said.
  • Don’t butt in to my assessments and conversations with patients, family members and other first responders. I didn’t ask when the last time the lady who twisted her ankle ate, because I don’t care, and it’s not pertinent. Especially not before we determine the extent of her injury.
  • Perform your own assessments. Our patient’s won’t mind if you ask them the same questions I already have. They tend to know that you are a student, usually your big name badge that says “EMT STUDENT” gives it away. Performing your assessments on your own, and obtaining your own vitals (like, acutally listening to vital signs and blood pressures) will only reinforce your routine, and make you better once you finish school.
  • The time to discuss the call, why things were done, or in a certain way, is after the call. I promise, I will answer all your questions, and we can discuss anything you want. In the back of the ambulance is not the best time to ask what valacyclovir is used for. (She’s not so cute now, is she?)
  • Talk to your teacher about rescheduling your third rides. I understand that you have only 9 months to get your rides in, but that is a big part of the problem, and you are only contributing to it. There is absolutely no reason for your to come to a third ride before you can perform the most basic of EMT interventions. For paramedic students, you should have CPR, ACLS, PALS, and PHTLS cards before you schedule a ride.
  • Help my partner. When we turn over a patient, I have things I have to get done, such as obtaining signatures, and some minor documentation. There isn’t much reason for you to shadow me while I do these things. Slimm has to prepare the stretcher for the next call, restock the supplies we used, and generally tidy up the truck. Go help him, and he will teach you how to be a good EMT, and more importantly, how to be a good partner.
  • Help both of us. We spend 12 hours in this truck, and there are various things we have to restock, clean, remove or replace at the end of a shift. I know you don’t work here, but sticking a piece of paper in my face before the truck is cleaned and restocked, and demanding my signature, will only make you wait longer to be able to go home.


Please understand that I really do enjoy having student third riders in my ambulance. I remember fondly the third rides I did when I was in EMT school, and how new and foreign all this stuff was. I looked up to my paramedic and EMT preceptors, and I was lucky that they were kind and patient with me.  It was made perfectly clear that I was the new guy, and I was an immigrant in a foreign land. My preceptors guided me, and showed me the ropes. I will be happy to do the same, but you are going to have to at least try and show a modicum of respect for this business.


Let’s do better next time, mmmkay?


  1. As a basic EMT student back in… well… back when I was, I showed up for a ride-along at a large public hospital EMS. This was back in the day as they say, and when I arrived (a half hour early), I was told that the crew I was riding with had arrived a few minutes before and had been pressed into service even before they could start a checklist because of an urgent call. It turned out that they had responded to a fire call where a guy had jumped out of a three-story window and broken both legs (bilat tib-fib).

    I waited around and in a few minutes, the unit returned and did a hot unload. As they were unloading, I told them who I was and they quickly greeted me and said, “We’ll be back in a few minutes.”

    The ambulance was a mess with equipment, trash and blood spread about. So I climbed in and began to pick up the trash and put up the equipment that I could. Then I got some towels and cleaned up the blood and was just finishing up wiping down the back with disinfectant when they arrived back at the ambulance. They stared at the interior of the truck and me on my knees wiping down the floor and said, “What are you doing.”
    “Cleaning up the truck.” “Why?” (meaning, “why are YOU doing it?”) “Because it needed it.”

    They looked at each other and back at me and said, “You can do anything you want tonight, start all the IV’s, whatever.”

    It started us off on the right foot.

    Later, as a paramedic student, I was interning in the ER of a major hospital here. The nursing staff didn’t really quite know what to do with me. Anyone ever experience that? The arrangements are made between the class instructor and the facility manager but no one actually explain what you’re supposed to be doing to the people with whom you work?

    Well, I showed up, they weren’t sure what I was supposed to do but right away, there was a mess in one of the rooms so I said, “I’ll get it.” This was before the days when there were staff to clean the rooms at night; the nurses did it. So I cleaned up the room, emptied catheter bags, and just volunteered for all the tedious jobs. Very, very soon, they were treating me like a hero and that translated from checking blood pressures to “Can you give this patient 75 of demerol and 25 of phenergan. Here’s the keys to the drug cabinet. Oh, and since you’ll be doing that tonight, just keep them.” So here I was walking around with the keys to the controlled substance cabinet. Pretty soon, they sent me to assist the attendings and specialists that were doing all sorts of procedures on patients. I learned a lot during my time there.

    All of the things that CCC talks about are things that both impress and please the people you intern with. And that translates into them wanting to help you.

Speak Your Mind