If you’re thinking about becoming an EMT or a paramedic, then you may be wondering what kind of respect the job will bring you with the general public and your fellow medical professionals? This is a great question to ask, but it’s one that has a very complicated answer and this is why.
Many EMTs and paramedics feel that their profession does not get the respect that it deserves, and some have even come up with lists of reasons why not. But the level of respect for the EMS profession really varies.
While you probably shouldn’t choose your career path based entirely on the respect you will get, it can be a factor to look for. Here’s what you need to know.
Also read: Can You Live Off an EMT/Paramedic Salary?
How Are EMTs Viewed By Other Medical Professionals?
You will hear a lot from some vocal types (often found on social media) that, maybe, EMTs and paramedics can get respect from the public and from other emergency responders, but those other medical professionals (doctors, nurses, etc.) can give them a really hard time.
Here is a look at what a day in the life of an ambulance EMT is like:
In fact, we would refer you to this advice from Mikka Luster, a former paramedic, on Quora:
“America has a problem: training physicians is expensive, really expensive. Hospitals are reluctant to let them go out into the field, both because transport hours are less billable, and because the dangers of street work are higher than those of hospital care.
So, it begins training their paramedics accordingly: highly skilled and specialized pre-hospital emergency care experts. There’s a reason, Corpsmen are called “Doc” in their unit, when shit happens that guy or gal is your best chance at survival.
Physicians know this. They also know their own and the paramedic’s limitations. That’s how modern medicine works, specialists that “hook” into each other, forming a chain of diagnostics, therapy, care, and recuperation, being at the side of their patients in their specific capacity every step of the way.
A surgeon will, generally, defer to a neurologist in neurological cases. A neurologist will defer to a psychiatrist, who might seek the wisdom or send their patient to an oncologist if needed. The paramedic is another person in this chain, someone who will defer if needed and is accepted as the expert in one piece of the puzzle.
Physicians know, that if a patient is closer to death’s door than the walkout, a paramedic is their best hope. Paramedics know how to do CPR, many are more skilled in ACLS and ATLS (advanced cardiac and trauma life support), can lay IV or intubate someone in most any crooked position, and stay calm in the middle of three smoking car wrecks, screaming people, and flashing police lights. In what they do, they’re highly trained, and as part of an eye-level team they’re just as important as everyone else in it.”
How Are EMTs Viewed By Themselves And The Public?
1. A Lack Of Visibility
It’s fair to say that EMTs and paramedics are rarely given much in the way of on-screen representation when it comes to mass casualty incidents and the like.
You will get the “top brass” giving statements and their insight, etc. but the boots on the ground? They might as well be invisible. However, it’s worth noting that there’s no reason to believe that the public places a contingency on respect based on how much TV time a profession gets.
2. A Lack Of Common Uniforms
This is true. While firefighters and police all wear similar uniforms, there is no EMT or paramedic standard uniform and around the world and even within the United States.
There’s a huge variation in the presentation of EMS workers.
This may have some impact on the public’s perception of things but probably not a lot – if you’re looking for someone to help in an emergency, you probably don’t spend too much time worrying whether their shoes match their belt.
Also read: When Do Firefighters Wear Dress Uniforms?
3. A Lack Of Understand Of What EMTs Do
There might be something to this.
If you ask a member of the public what a firefighter does or a police officer does, they’re going to be able to rattle off a short description of the job.
They may struggle to define exactly what an EMT or paramedic does though.
Also read: Can EMTs Start IVs/Intubate/Give Stitches?
4. A Lower Qualification Requirement
One big sticking point for some is that you don’t need a degree to become an EMT.
In a day when nearly every job demands an associate’s degree, how can technical training hope to live up to this?
We’d argue that no-one cares where you studied when they need help in an emergency. And on that same note, most firefighters and cops are not required to get a college degree either.
5. There Are Bad EMTs Out There
EMTs spend a lot of time out in the field pretty much alone. Unfortunately, this is a great way to breed bad habits and for a poorly skilled EMT to become a lousy EMT.
This could be fixed with more monitoring and training but, this would add serious costs to the service. Having said that, a few bad apples don’t spoil the barrel and most EMTs are great.
6. EMTs Are Often Bad On Social Media
There is some truth to this.
Though we think it’s not limited to EMTs, you often find that on social media – conversations are dominated by a small non-representative group of individuals who tend to spout off at each other and everyone around them.
This can make EMTs look bad, for sure, but we wonder who, other than EMTs, would spend much time reading what EMTs have to say on social media, in the first place?
7. EMTs Seem To Believe They Are Not Respected
Yes. This is actually a fairly serious problem.
EMTs seem to confuse their (never big enough) paychecks with the public’s perception of them. In truth, the public loves EMTs, and they are happy to extend their respect to them whenever they encounter them.
EMTs are often the first people on the scene of a medical emergency and what they do matters more than most people can express – there’s no shortage of love for EMTs, it’s just that many EMTs think they’re not getting it because their pay sucks.
8. EMTs Worry Too Much About This
Nobody seems to spend very much time explaining the very basics of emotional control to anyone in any profession, but it would be so very good if they did.
You cannot force people to respect you and you certainly have minimal control over the feelings of others, but there is one place that respect tends to stem from – self-respect.
If an EMT worries too much about the respect of others, they will lack the self-respect necessary to get the respect of others. If, on the other hand, they work hard, show medical competence and respect others? Then they will find that there is no shortage of respect from the public and indeed even from other professionals in the field.
Firefighters are often qualified EMTs or paramedics themselves. The police are grateful to keep their hands free to investigate, interrogate, and detain and so on… an EMT’s role is vital and that is always clear when they’re doing their job and doing it well.
Are EMTs and paramedics a respected profession? We think that the general public certainly respects EMTs and paramedics, but it probably doesn’t understand what our role is and thus, it can be harder for individuals to work out where, exactly, on the hierarchy paramedics and EMTs stand and how much respect should be accorded to them for their status alone.
It’s certainly true that some people in the Emergency Medical Services don’t treat EMTs and paramedics kindly but it’s also true that many others do. Those people understand that EMTs and paramedics do valuable work and they extend their respect to their fellow medical professionals based on their medical competence and work ethic. If you want respect in life, you often have to earn it – this career path is no different.