Most of us don’t do what we do for the proverbial “pat on the back.” In fact, you could even make a good argument that we don’t even really do it for the money. So what does a week of national recognition mean for us? We know we can’t relax and stop doing our job. And even though the appreciation is nice, it isn’t the real value of this week for any of us. Think about it, for these five remaining days, the press (who normally refers to us as “ambulance drivers”) is looking directly at us for heartwarming stories. They don’t honestly care what the topic is for the week, they just want to fill airtime with appropriate stories. For this brief time, it is our chance to accomplish what we normally only complain about the whole rest of year – “how can we communicate what we really do to the public?”
Helping parents fit child safety seats in their car or doing a blood pressure screening at the mall is great. Teaching an extra hands-only CPR class to the public is wonderful. Reuniting rescuers with the rescued is certainly heartwarming. There is even a website dedicated to EMS Week Ideas here. But when we have the nearly undivided attention of the media, we need to do more than deliver the expected stories. When asked about why we got in to this field, we should do more than just reminiscence about Johnny and Roy in the good old days of “Emergency!” This is our chance to talk about how our “profession” (and I suggest you use that word liberally in any conversation) as “paramedics” (to include EMTs) is evolving from the public safety model to integrated mobile healthcare. This is your chance to engage in politics and promote the Field EMS bill that will recognize and standardize our work as well as provide a foundation for appropriate financial support.
It is tempting, when a microphone is placed in our face, to wax about our own personal career or personal motivations (as expected), but give that reporter a real “news” story instead. EMS needs the public to know what we really do, how they can best leverage us, and the political as well as financial challenges we face. Don’t compare yourself to police and firefighters – describe how we are not legally similar or even considered critical staff in most places. And certainly don’t post a video of yourself “dancing in the cab”, but instead tell a story of the challenges your organization faces. And if you don’t know what the most significant problems are that face your future, take the chance this week learn.