I have been asked if I had any tips on a female aspiring to being a paramedic. I had initially finished this post with a list of items, categorized them with the most important at the end. It looked nice.
I always finish a post and leave it for a while. I come back and read it later, out loud, and if I still like it I post it. I never love my posts. I’m my biggest critic. I realized something when I read my first draft of the post. It was completely wrong.
I was writing to a female trying to be a paramedic and I somehow thought there was a difference between what a female and a male needs to be a paramedic and that was a completely wrong idea or set of ideas. Tips for being a good paramedic don’t get divided between male and female. They are the same sets.
Let me expain:
1. You can’t lift too much weight? Grow muscle. Learn good techniques. Use and understand your equipment. I always tell people if you can’t move a patient onto your stretcher you are not going to get the patient to definitive care. That is our goal. You and your partner should be able to move a 250 to 300 pound patient via draw sheet onto a stretcher. Understand you are not lifting the patient, you are dragging them with a draw sheet onto your stretcher. If you can’t you need to work on developing muscle to be able to do it. There are obviously limits, if you are near your limits call for backup. Get FD involved, PD, family. I’ve heard complaints of female medics that don’t lift, but I’ve also heard of male medics who can’t lift, or are lazy. It isn’t an gender issue, it’s a muscle and technique issue.
2. Learn everything. You are going to be a paramedic and that means you will be leading patient care. You will make mistakes, learn from them. Starting out learn your sciences, learn anatomy and physiology. These things will come in handy when you start developing your advanced care. You will not know some of the things you encounter, learn them. Don’t know a medication? Guess what, learn it. Protocols. You better learn them. There is a catch 22 to this, you can never know everything. If you ever think you do, if you ever think you don’t need that extra class or that refresher your company is giving you, stop yourself, examine what you are saying. Know right then and there that you are wrong, and possibly going down a dangerous path, and go learn.
3. Rookies take some heat, but don’t take more than your fair share. There is a big difference between initiation into a group and hazing.
4. Practice being in command. This one is hard and I have written on it before and probably will again in the future. Initially it will be hard to walk into an emergency and look like if you are in control, fact is you will be. Depending on the system you work with once you’re a paramedic you might or might not have a long orientation. You won’t feel like if you have what it takes to lead the patient’s treatment as a new paramedic, especially if that treatment is invasive and extreme. You are training to be a paramedic though, you are that person. Fake it until you make it isn’t enough, you have to be making it. You don’t want to sound hesitant if someone’s life is in your hands and their whole family is watching you. Take control, follow your protocols (you see you need to know them) follow through and move. Don’t be bulldozed into inaction. You will pay for it at the ER and your patient may pay for your indecisiveness.
I will finish with a story. When I was going through my paramedic training there was a student who was very short and thin. She was a hundred pounds if she was wearing a parka in winter and fully wet. One day she couldn’t lift the stretcher with a student on it. She was too short and her legs were too weak. The instructor berated her for it. Badly. Another day there was an accident and a student suffered a toe injury. Being gun ho medic students we treated on scene. The blood almost made her pass out. Again she became the butt of many jokes. What kind of a medic can’t handle blood? Can’t lift a stretcher? She was not cut out for this field.
She kept at it. She worked hard. She fought through. Dedication is part stubbornness after all. She became a paramedic, she continued her education and got her critical care and FPC. She continued her education and I bumped into her much later, many years later, (more than I care to remind myself of) flying as a critical care nurse with a children’s facility.
You want this? You want to be a paramedic? Learn what it’s going to be, learn what you need, train for it. Then go out and get it, doesn’t matter if you’re a male or female.