The EMS Life: Learning to Embrace the Routine
In addition to our EMS Education and NREMT Prep program; we also want to impact the day-to-day survival and happiness of our professionals. To that end, we're starting a series on navigating the day to day grind. Developing professional habits will make you a happier person, a better team member, and help stave off burnout.
When you work every third day, the monotony of the daily grind can get frustrating and it quickly becomes something that's easy to slack on. You start telling yourself "Our job is to save lives. I'll be good at that and someone else can be good at ambulance washing." After awhile, you come in and start chatting, or napping and put off those things as long as you can. Then you get a call and its postponed further. When you get caught without oxygen or a sheet on your cot, you blame the previous crew for "always leaving you unprepared." Now, you're in trouble, you have animosity with team members, and you look bad. You're probably not going to have a great day, and it's one more thing you stress about. The best way to stop all of this is just to develop your routine.
Pro Tip #1: Start every day the same, and do it until it's done.
Instead of showing up at the last possible second, chatting or setting up your bed, just build the following into your routine. Show up early, drink your coffee and get report from the previous crew. If you're waiting for your partner to show up, go ahead and check O2 and fuel. Once your partner shows up, immediately check off the truck. It's the worst part of the routine, so just get it over with. If you use a tablet, one person can do the count, while the other puts it in the computer. EMTs should be just as knowledgeable as the paramedic about the location of all meds and equipment. This is a good time to do practice scenarios or talk about what equipment is used for what conditions. Then clean the truck together and do station duties together. Out of all the ways we have devised to try to accomplish the morning mission, this just works best. Do the exact same thing every day, so that you both know what to expect from each other and you get it over with and do it correctly in the quickest amount of time.
Pro Tip 2: Divide and Conquer
There is a formula you learn in calculus about the efficiency of a system of people and the work that they can perform in a given period of time, either on there own or with another person. You would think that a job that takes 1 hour as an individual would take 30 min for 2. In fact, 2 people doing a job takes about 1/3 of the time. If you normally do station duties while your partner cleans the truck. STOP! Do each task together and you’ll Be amazed at how Much time you save.
Pro Tip 3: Time or….Stress Management
Stress is like debt, once you have it, it starts compounding like spring bunnies. The quickest way to stop that roller coaster of stress is to make sure you have the tools to do your Job. 6:17am, beginning of a brand new shift and you get toned out to a 3 car mvc with 5 patients. You open the side door only to find no backboards, oh and they ran a vent call last night and left your main drained. Sucks to be you! Its not that you weren't checking off the truck, you just checked the wrong things first. First off, do the 60 second check off. Walk around the truck and check that your tires aren't flat, that you have O2 in the main and that you have backboards. Next check your monitor and make sure you have batteries and paper. While you're checking that stuff, have your partner quickly inventory the jump bag. You can run 99% of calls with 60 seconds of effort.
Pro Tip 4: Watch the Clock
How long have we been on scene? 5 minutes, 10 minutes, an hour? On complex calls time loses all meaning. Set a goal to get your chores done in 20 minutes or less. Setting this daily goal will build an internal clock to help you “feel” how long your scene time tasks take. Setting a time goal will also force you to maximize your efficiency by building systems to accomplish tasks, we call that a routine. Avoid planning it out, review it each day and ask how can we make it faster.
Pro Tip 5: Gather your Shift Essentials at the start of the day
- Music and/or podcasts: Make a playlist with some songs to get you going. Wanna be a rock star? Add a 5 minute podcast from Emcrit or another Emergency medicine provider.
- Hydrate or Die: Drink a liter of water while your working; you’ll be amazed at how well it wakes you up.
- Not motivated today? Suck it up and remember how sick that 3% raise will be at the end of the year and if you're not motivated by money, think of that empty spot on the mantle that you can put that paramedic of the year award... right next to the Lazarus award because your monitor actually had batteries!
Setting up and embracing your routine is crucial to being a professional EMT or Paramedic. It makes your life so much easier. You and your partner will know exactly what to expect from each other, you can get the boring stuff over with, and you'll be confident and happier knowing that you don't have to worry that a supervisor might come by to inspect your rig or worry that you'll find yourself without a necessary item on scene. Even better, once this is part of your life, you will find that you FEEL more professional, everyone else treats you more professionally, and your professionalism bleeds into your patient care. This is not just a job where you clock in, fill some hours, and collect a check. This is your EMS life, and this is a career where you get to make an actual difference in the lives of other people. Be a professional. When all of this is over, and some day it will be, you'll be glad you did.