As we look forward to National EMS Week in May, it’s worth pausing to consider that emergency physicians have a lot in common with our Fire/EMS colleagues.
If there’s one thing we share, it’s dedication to a difficult job. No one else fully understands what it’s like to do what we do. Held to the highest standard despite limited time and resources, we are the experts at resuscitation and stabilization of critically ill, undifferentiated patients.
On a daily basis, we come face-to-face with many of the greatest challenges of our society — from drug abuse and violent crime to poverty and mental illness. As the safety net for our communities, we operate on the frontlines of a broken health care system. Above all else, we share the common mission of providing the best possible care to our patients.
Like many emergency physicians, I started off as a firefighter. Sometime during my first year out of the fire academy, I remember walking upstairs to the station locker room on a slow morning. We had only run one call that day, so I planned to get a head start on the daily chores. I stopped by the utility closet looking for the broom and mop, only to discover that someone else had already taken them. I continued into the locker room to find the department’s senior firefighter with the mop in his hand. He was just finishing up with the last section of the floor. I quickly offered to take over, but he just smiled and shook his head. “I’ve got this,” he said.
It was a simple gesture, but that moment helped me understand the importance of pride and how it can shape the culture of an organization. Despite being one of the most experienced and respected members of the department, our highest-ranking firefighter demonstrated that he was willing to help with whatever needed to be done — even if it meant mopping the floors.
It became apparent to me early on in my career that the culture of the fire service is one of respect, dedication, and hard work. Firefighters report for duty every day knowing well that at a moment’s notice, their lives may depend on the person sitting next to them at morning changeover. This sobering reality is reflected in nearly everything they do.
Despite our many similarities, Fire/ EMS operators have a superpower that far too often is severely lacking in the ED: taking pride in every aspect of their work — whether that’s rescuing someone from an active fire or mopping the floors at the station.
No matter the setting, respect is earned through hard work and dedication. This holds true across every rank and experience level. If someone is willing to go the extra mile to do a great job on a small or minor task, that speaks volumes about their pride for their work. In this, we can all learn something from our Fire/EMS colleagues.