Irritating people is what I do best

Since I have clearly irritated some people, allow me to elaborate on my previous post. The third comment on my post illustrates fairly well the immaturity that is rampant in EMS. I received another comment that was fraught with such profanity and grammatical errors that I simply don’t have the time to edit. In response, I was born to unwed parents, but was then subsequently adopted, so the assertion that I am a bastard is partly correct, but nullified when one realizes I was chosen by my parents.

I don’t suggest that it is okay for us, as EMTs and Paramedics, to accept being called “Ambulance Drivers.” What I do suggest, however, is that we should get over it, and stop viewing the term as some sort of slur.

Nothing irritates me more than hearing fellow EMTs and Paramedics with wet ink on their cards bitching about the proverbial “little old lady” calling them an ambulance driver. The vast majority of the public have no idea that I spent more than 3 years combined learning how to take care of them. They just know that they are in the midst of what they perceive as a medical emergency, and they want an ambulance to take them to the hospital.

And that’s what I do. I put the patient in the ambulance, then I drive them to the hospital.

EMS Outside Agitator made a couple of analogies in his rebuttal post to my original post. I’m flattered to be considered an “esteemed colleague” by the way.

Show me the cop who accepts being called a Gunslinger. Show me the Fireman that tolerates being called a Hoser. Show me the Nurse who is fine with being called an Asswiper. Each of those things are the LEAST of what they do.

He goes on to make some more excellent points, one of which I will get to at the end of this post. While it was suggested that I “screwed the pooch,” I’m okay with that suggestion from someone who literally paved the way for me.

Police officers (Cop is actually a slang term, and some police officers view that as derogatory) have been around since Gaius Octavius created a police force sometime around 27 B.C. Firefighters have been around since at least 6 A.D., when Augustus created the first fire brigade designed to fight fires, as opposed to bargain for their services. In the United States, Benjamin Franklin established Union Fire Company in Philadelphia in 1736. Nursing began as a profession, using the term “nurse” around 1568 in Spain, with the Obregones Nurses. Nursing certainly began long before then.

It would be inappropriate to call a police officer a “Gunslinger” because, well, that’s not what they do. Perhaps they sling guns for a very small fraction of their career, but not much. I know police officers with 20+ years on the force who have never pulled their guns. Police officers certainly don’t spend 75% of their time slinging sidearms.

It would be inappropriate to call a fireman a “Hoser” because that’s not what they do. Firemen these days spend the vast majority of their time on the job responding to medical calls, or creating fire plans for buildings in their territories. They certainly don’t spend 75% of their time messing with hose.

It would be inappropriate call a nurse an “Asswiper” because, again, that’s not what they do. Sure, nurses are occasionally tasked with cleaning bowel movements. It’s a thankless part of a noble profession. Nurses spend the vast majority of their time assessing patients, writing care plans, completing orders written by physicians, and taking care of sick people. They certainly don’t spend 75% of their time wiping asses.

EMS doesn’t have the history of either one of those professions. We do take care of people, and we do it well. There are things that need to be improved on, and as a whole, we are moving in the right direction. And, we spend a large amount of our time driving ambulances.

The earliest establishment of any significant prehospital care was during WWII and the Korean War, in which battlefield medics gave narcotics to wounded soldiers. Korea saw the advent of the use of helicopters to evacuate wounded, but those helicopters wouldn’t make their way into the civilian world for another 20 years.

The public does not care that I spent more than 4 years in school to learn how to take care of them. They don’t care than I have 19 post-nominal letters after my name, which were earned in those years of education. (Those letters don’t mean anything, anyway, just that I spend a lot of time in classes.) What the public cares about is their emergency (perceived or real), and getting to the hospital. The public calls an ambulance when they want to be taken to the hospital, and guess what?

We, EMTs and Paramedics, drive the ambulance.

EMS Outside Agitator went on to make several more salient points in his post*, and I agree with the majority of what he has to say. I am not suggesting that we, as members of this profession, refer to ourselves as such. I will never refer to coworkers or colleagues as an “Ambulance Driver” because I recognize that we do much, much more than that.

What I am suggesting is that we stop getting so bent out of shape when that little old lady, or that kid who rarely ventures out of his mother’s basement, or that snooty lawyer in the BMW who just rear-ended the soccer mom, refers to us as “Ambulance Drivers.”


*I felt this was worthy enough to warrant it’s own paragraph, but didn’t fit with the rest of my post.

…but for Chrissakes why can’t we just be honest about our contribution; even if it is running IFTs! There’s nothing wrong with coming up from the bottom as long as the system you’re part of helps you come UP instead of go nowhere.

I think the IFT side of EMS does a valuable service. I thoroughly enjoy IFT, and learned most of my knowledge there. Sure, I learned how to decompress a chest and drop an ET tube on the 911 side, but I learned how to take care of people on the IFT side.



  1. Maybe the sensitivity is a symptom of insecurity or something. Then again, maybe the best way to get people to stop calling us ambulance drivers is to be the professional we purport to be.

    Then again, I’m not wasting any time worryning about.

    You don’t irritate me, so you need to work at it. 😉

  2. Oh, maybe you should check with Rogue Medic, he irritates me on a regular basis. 😉

  3. Almost 10 years I’ve been doing this and I still don’t get it.
    We all need to get over ourselves and do our jobs better.
    I wear my “Ambulance Drivers Rock” lapel pin with pride.
    Most people wouldn’t understand if I tried explaining the difference between the CCP after my name and the EMT-B after the other guys name anyway. And they wouldn’t care.
    I drive the ambulance, and I do it very well.

  4. Three long shifts in a row – if I’m coherent, it will be by accident, but here goes.

    1. First of all, some people – and all of you know them – don’t deserve to be called anything more than ambulance drivers. And some of those aren’t even very good drivers. “If the shoe fits, throw it at them,” I always say.

    2. Second, one problem in EMS is that many, many people don’t really do anything to cause people to respect them. We – and I mean those of us who are paramedics – choose which nurses and doctors to respect. We don’t respect all of them, maybe not even most of them, that’s for sure. We just don’t have an alternate name to call them. But there are many of us – present company excepted of course because you are here reading blogs and advocating – who don’t do any continuing education, who come in unshaven or dressed sloppily, who use terrible English and cannot write coherently. It is these people who drag us as a whole down, possibly because there are more of them than there are of us.

    3. Third, some people are just not nice. I mean exactly that. They’re not nice. All of you can name the ones like that in your own service, not to mention other services. That doesn’t help.

    Finally, three decades ago when I was very active trying to work with assembling an advocacy group for EMS in my state, I was told by someone very wise that as far as he was concerned, he could not foresee EMS ever being accepted as a medical profession in its own right. One reason, he said, is too many part-time EMS people who work full-time on a fire engine and don’t care nearly as much for EMS as they do squirting water.

    (If you’re thinking about this time that I said this stuff and am just dissembling, I didn’t. But I listened and remembered. It was interesting)

    He also pointed out that most EMT/Paramedics, when they are off work, are not interested in continuing education, in self-development by reading journal articles, in improving their knowledge and skills. He said, “When they get off work from that 24 hour shift, they want to get their boats and go to the lake and drink beer and watch football. You’re never going to get them interested in any kind of an organization to improve EMS because they really just don’t care.”

    Having said that, your comments above, CCC, are well expressed and my wife and I had a huge laugh over that first paragraph. Me, I don’t really care what they call me but I’m not afraid to, shall we say, contradict someone who uses a wrong term.

    “Hi,” says the nurse to the patient, “here’s the ambulance driver who’s going to be taking you to rehab.”
    “Hi,” says the ambulance driver, “I’ve read your medical record and the doctor’s notes and I’m ready to get you over to rehab and take care of you on the way. I’ve been a paramedic now for over 30 years so don’t worry, everything is going to go just fine.”

    I’m not proud. Except, I can be.

    • All I can say is nice reply, eloquent and to the point, you hit the nail on the head

    • “I’ve read your medical record that the ass-wiper here so helpfully got together for me, and I’m ready to get you over to rehab and take of you on the way.”

      Fixed that for ya.

  5. Coffeejunkie says:

    This is my first visit to the complete blog.. The post headliner here made me fall in love instantly and seems to be the story of my life! Ive enjoyed going back through the entries and connecting with your experiences. Continue to stay thick skinned and do everything you can for your patients, the rest will fall into place (and the ones who don’t matter will fall out of place). Must get back to watching the county training broadcast, stay safe.


  1. […] isn’t about the words, it’s about the attitude. Flash says in Rogue’s blog: February 22, 2012 at 9:51 pm Finally, three decades ago when I was very active trying to work with assembling an advocacy […]

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