Finding a meaningful job that gets you jumping out of bed each and every morning is easier said than done. I consider myself lucky to be doing what I love everyday: working to provide care for other people. For many in the EMT industry, they are also working their dream job, saving lives and having a lasting impact on every patient they treat. But there are times the industry doesn’t quite live up to their expectations. Study after study has shown that being unhappy at work has serious consequences to your health, both mental and physical. I recognize this and strive to motivate EMTs and the industry as a whole, to not only recognize the impact they have on the people around them, but to embrace meaningful change to address these issues. This is where I believe being happy at work, and proud of what you do, can make a big difference in the lives of patients and those who care for them.
Working day after day at a job that you are unhappy with and unmotivated at, can take a toll on your emotional and mental health. Being angry, irritable, and miserable or experiencing stress and anxiety are the most common problems associated with unhappiness at work, and for an EMT these can affect patient care as much as they affect your health.
As an EMT, it helps to try and take a step back and think about your position from the patient’s point of view: being in your rig can be stressful. The care you provide is your top priority, but speaking to your patient with a smile on your face and having a calming, inviting attitude can drastically change their experience and yours. Something as simple as a smile can be the start of changing their mood, and in turn, changing your outlook on your job.
Many problems plaguing the EMT industry can be solved with transparency. Allowing EMTs to take ownership of their careers, adjust their schedule as needed, view their upcoming appointments, and see and react to any operational delays will help relieve stress and anxiety by allowing EMTs to focus on providing care. While not every operational process is seamless, we hope that our efforts will inspire a change in the industry.
Maintaining a positive attitude in your job, and in your life in general, means your relationship with your friends and family doesn’t become strained during your time off. Time spent off duty is vital, not just to recharge and rest, but to maintain a healthy work/life balance. A big factor in maintaining that balance is having a flexible, yet dependable schedule. Whether you have children who need your attention, or you simply need a vacation, I understand that everyone deserves the ability to request time off without the stress of it affecting your position.
Sleep problems like Insomnia can actually be triggered by anxiety and can act as a feedback cycle, making your stress and anxiety worse. As an EMT, shifts may be longer than an office job or you might even work the night shift. Getting an adequate amount of sleep is imperative to coming into your shift, whichever time it is, with a clear mind and a positive attitude.
One of the most common reasons for stress in any job, not just in the EMT industry, are financial responsibilities. I believe this can be solved by changing the standard model, motivating EMTs, and enabling drivers to earn more. The use of new technologies and improved operations can allow drivers to make more runs per shift than was possible before, and increase their salary.
"The goal of any job, but especially in the EMT industry, is to never let the issues become the focus. It should always be about patient care."
As much as being an EMT is a state of mind, your physical health is just as important. Staying active, for at least thirty minutes a day, has been shown to provide a range of benefits to your health. Consistent exercise allows your body to better cope with stress, which among other things can boost your immune system to fight off colds and develop healthy sleeping habits.
Staying active also helps you maintain a healthy weight. That’s why we’re embracing new technology to bring change to an industry that can have a stigma of “waiting”. It allows EMTs to make more efficient use of their time, so there’s less time sitting and more runs per shift. When you’re on the job, get up for a quick walk or find simple exercises you can do in your seat, like armchair yoga. When you’re off the job, do what you love to stay active. If you can’t stand running, swim. If you can’t swim, hop on a bike. All of these can help you stay fit, healthy, and most importantly, happy.
The goal of any job, but especially in the EMT industry, is to never let the issues become the focus. It should always be about patient care. If it’s not, it might be time to make a change for the better. There isn’t a job in the world that’s worth sacrificing your long-term health and happiness.
Sometimes the biggest and most effective change you can make is your state of mind. It can make a huge difference in your life, being positive, as many of these health issues begin as stress or anxiety. Finding a healthy outlet for these is important. Find a partner that can make you laugh—a lot. Use a mantra to help you focus and clear your mind.
The rewards of working in our industry are unlike any other job out there. Finding out that the split-second choice you made saved the life of someone’s mom, dad, son, daughter, significant other, best friend. Developing relationships with patients, for that fifteen minute drive or for that weekly appointment, that makes a difference in their day and yours. Discovering your “limits” and how far you can push yourself beyond them. It’s hard work, but you wouldn’t believe how easy it can be, or how much you can care, when you’re focused on what got you started in the first place.