“Get your Paramedic”? A reader needs help

There has been talk on the interwebs lately about how to grab a municipal Fire Department spot. A lot of the advice focuses on getting higher training in the largest aspect of the modern Fire Service, EMS.

The advice is not to become an accomplished caregiver, or to strive to learn what new techniques and treatments may be coming down the line, but to simply “get your Paramedic.”

I have advice to anyone thinking about going to Paramedic school in order to get on with the Fire Department. I’ve said it before.

They want you to work as a Paramedic after you get hired.

Simply getting your license will not move you to the top of the firefighter list, but to the bottom of the Paramedic list. I know some departments offer extra points for your EMT-P, some even make it a requirement. But please believe me when I tell you, they want Paramedics, not just folks who can check that box on the form.

I pursued my Paramedic license when I became frustrated I couldn’t do everything for my patients. That pursuit taught me more about myself than the workings of the EMS systems I would join in the future.

It was my license that got me off the list of 10,000 people and onto the list of 2,000. Better odds surely, but I still had to prove myself a competent Paramedic.

And when I started, the closest I got the the fire engines was parking next to them in my ambulance, where I worked as a Paramedic/Firefighter, not a Firefighter/Paramedic.

If you want to earn and use your Paramedic license in the Fire Service, then by all means, go for it. Write me, I’ll help you study. But if you’re looking to check a box on a form to get a job you desire without fulfilling the requirements of that job, do my family a favor and stay home. I’d rather have a dedicated EMT than a card carrying disinterested Paramedic.

Apply for the job you want and then DO IT. Don’t waste your time and mine on a class when someone who actually wants to participate in patient care could use your seat.

If you really want to get a job in this tough economy, go back to school. Local trade schools offer EMS and fire training these days. Take the intro class and see what it’s all about.

Drop the attitude. Wherever you are testing needs to be considered your very first fire job, if it isn’t already. All your experience, ideas and concepts need to be put on the back burner. Learn the way they do things. Their ladders, their supply lines, their chain of command.

Test, test and test again.

I wrote the above passage over a year ago and never published it.  I have a great many posts I wrote when emotional and set aside to wait until, well, who knows.

A reader reached out about motivation to get through Paramedic School on the way to getting on with the fire department.  Since you now know where I stand on this, both from this post and another from awhile back, I need a favor for this reader.

I’ll call him Bob.  I suggested Bob look outside the overpopulated systems of California for a place that will hire firefighters who are not Paramedics.  While a quick internet search can find specifics on salary and duties, I was hoping you could give a brief feeling of the department near you that is hiring.

If your department or one near you is hiring or about to hire, please leave info about it in the comments section.  I’ve asked Bob to look there for advice on where to look for a job with the FD without having to get his Paramedic, something it seems is not on his priority list to begin with.

And before you decide to spout off against Bob for his decision, keep in mind he is doing the right thing before it is too late.

So in the end I tip my helmet to you “Bob” for reaching out for an opinion from a stranger and listening to it.  It isn’t easy to hear something you don’t want to hear, but even harder to come to terms with where you are compared to where you want to be.

Thanks, guys.

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32 thoughts on ““Get your Paramedic”? A reader needs help”

  1. I’d say Bob should look for any major city, in any state, that has a separate EMS agency or company, or an out-of-the-ordinary method of obtaining paramedics (ala Seattle). Better than even chance that they don’t necessarily require Paramedic to be hired, or in some places even EMT (most of them do that during the academy).

    Places like DC, FDNY, Nashville, Chicago, Detroit, some county departments in the Southeast/southern East Coast, are all some that I can think off the top of my head to start looking.

  2. I’d say Bob should look for any major city, in any state, that has a separate EMS agency or company, or an out-of-the-ordinary method of obtaining paramedics (ala Seattle). Better than even chance that they don’t necessarily require Paramedic to be hired, or in some places even EMT (most of them do that during the academy).

    Places like DC, FDNY, Nashville, Chicago, Detroit, some county departments in the Southeast/southern East Coast, are all some that I can think off the top of my head to start looking.

  3. Look into central NC, in the Wake County and surrounding areas. Raleigh Fire will pay you while you’re in fire academy. I think most agencies in NC are separate, as I think about it.

    “Getting your medic” is a major issue in south FL. There are EMS academies churning out fresh cards–er, “qualified” EMTs and Paramedics all the time. There is a surplus of card-carrying paramedics and a shortage of qualified care providers that have any prehospital care experience. Not only do 99% of all Fire Rescue agencies require their paramedics to be firefighters (effectively elminating anyone who can’t haul hose), but the plethora of people wanting to be firefighters means non-fire certified EMTs/medics are left to be part of the transport mill where AED’s are optional, working trucks are rare, and you get to make $9/$12 per hour (respectively).

  4. Look into central NC, in the Wake County and surrounding areas. Raleigh Fire will pay you while you’re in fire academy. I think most agencies in NC are separate, as I think about it.

    “Getting your medic” is a major issue in south FL. There are EMS academies churning out fresh cards–er, “qualified” EMTs and Paramedics all the time. There is a surplus of card-carrying paramedics and a shortage of qualified care providers that have any prehospital care experience. Not only do 99% of all Fire Rescue agencies require their paramedics to be firefighters (effectively elminating anyone who can’t haul hose), but the plethora of people wanting to be firefighters means non-fire certified EMTs/medics are left to be part of the transport mill where AED’s are optional, working trucks are rare, and you get to make $9/$12 per hour (respectively).

  5. I would have to say i would never want to go through medic school just to be a firefighter. I am just now completing my academic and clinical time and i think to go through it to not even apply to employment would be an extreme wast of resources.

  6. I would have to say i would never want to go through medic school just to be a firefighter. I am just now completing my academic and clinical time and i think to go through it to not even apply to employment would be an extreme wast of resources.

  7. We will hire non paramedics. The only problem is we will probably not hire until 2012 or later. It keeps changing. To gather more information go to http://www.fishers.in.us to the fire department section and fill out a pre app. You will be kept up to date on when our process will begin. If by some chance it is sooner you will be one of the first to know.

  8. We will hire non paramedics. The only problem is we will probably not hire until 2012 or later. It keeps changing. To gather more information go to http://www.fishers.in.us to the fire department section and fill out a pre app. You will be kept up to date on when our process will begin. If by some chance it is sooner you will be one of the first to know.

  9. Great post. Dead on! Alameda County Fire Department is going through the hiring process right now. Historically they hire every year. They hire medics and EMTs….mostly EMTs. If Bob is still looking a year from now check with them.

  10. Great post. Dead on! Alameda County Fire Department is going through the hiring process right now. Historically they hire every year. They hire medics and EMTs….mostly EMTs. If Bob is still looking a year from now check with them.

  11. Mobile, Alabama has been hiring for the position of firefighter for the past several years. We have had five recruit classes come through in the past three years, with more to come. They are not currently accepting applications for ff (though they HAVE been accepting applications for paramedics continuously since 2007 and still are) but I expect they will be shortly. Interested parties should monitor the Mobile County Personnel Board (personnelboard.org) or the department website (cityofmobile.orfire).

  12. Mobile, Alabama has been hiring for the position of firefighter for the past several years. We have had five recruit classes come through in the past three years, with more to come. They are not currently accepting applications for ff (though they HAVE been accepting applications for paramedics continuously since 2007 and still are) but I expect they will be shortly. Interested parties should monitor the Mobile County Personnel Board (personnelboard.org) or the department website (cityofmobile.orfire).

  13. I tell people around me who are looking to get a job on the FD that the single best thing they can do is get their ALS certification. Whether that is EMT-I or EMT-P, we accept both with little difference in protocols.

    Either way, it will help them get hire (immensely) and they will have to get it once they are hired anyways.

    However, you are so true about what you say about WANTING to do it. Just because you get the cert. doesn’t mean that once you get hired you only have to ride the fire engine. The new guys spend a lot of time on the ambos.

  14. I tell people around me who are looking to get a job on the FD that the single best thing they can do is get their ALS certification. Whether that is EMT-I or EMT-P, we accept both with little difference in protocols.

    Either way, it will help them get hire (immensely) and they will have to get it once they are hired anyways.

    However, you are so true about what you say about WANTING to do it. Just because you get the cert. doesn’t mean that once you get hired you only have to ride the fire engine. The new guys spend a lot of time on the ambos.

  15. I live in Central Florida, and have worked as an EMT for a county-wide, non-fire, ambulance service for the past two years. I am also about halfway through Paramedic school. That being said, the majority of my fellow students who are not currently employed in Fire/EMS, are there in order to get an EMS or FD job. The problem in my area, is that many of the local departments reward this sort of behavior. They still hire the most qualified/recommended graduates, but they very seldom hire anybody who is not in school, or already finished their Paramedic program.

    In turn, there are quite a few FF/PM’s who do not want to provide ALS care, but are forced to, because that is the only way to get or keep a job. Unfortunately, this does affect the quality of Pt care from time to time.

    Anyway, as for my advice to Bob, from the perspective of a current student who actually wants to be a PM: If you don’t want to be a paramedic, you probably won’t do very well in school. If PM school is just a means to an end, it probably isn’t worth going at all. If you successfully complete Paramedic school, and find a job as a FF/PM, but don’t enjoy being a Paramedic, you’ll never be able to fully enjoy your job.

    As far as places to find a job, I went to EMT school with a few guys who found jobs in and around Orlando, FL. But they all had to sign something saying they would go to PM school within three years from their hire date. So, I guess if you dont want to be a PM, try to avoid FL if possible.

    Hope this helps!

  16. I live in Central Florida, and have worked as an EMT for a county-wide, non-fire, ambulance service for the past two years. I am also about halfway through Paramedic school. That being said, the majority of my fellow students who are not currently employed in Fire/EMS, are there in order to get an EMS or FD job. The problem in my area, is that many of the local departments reward this sort of behavior. They still hire the most qualified/recommended graduates, but they very seldom hire anybody who is not in school, or already finished their Paramedic program.

    In turn, there are quite a few FF/PM’s who do not want to provide ALS care, but are forced to, because that is the only way to get or keep a job. Unfortunately, this does affect the quality of Pt care from time to time.

    Anyway, as for my advice to Bob, from the perspective of a current student who actually wants to be a PM: If you don’t want to be a paramedic, you probably won’t do very well in school. If PM school is just a means to an end, it probably isn’t worth going at all. If you successfully complete Paramedic school, and find a job as a FF/PM, but don’t enjoy being a Paramedic, you’ll never be able to fully enjoy your job.

    As far as places to find a job, I went to EMT school with a few guys who found jobs in and around Orlando, FL. But they all had to sign something saying they would go to PM school within three years from their hire date. So, I guess if you dont want to be a PM, try to avoid FL if possible.

    Hope this helps!

  17. You know what else I notice? EMS calls represent, on average, anywhere from 75-90% of the call volume in an fire-based EMS system. Yet throughout the firefighter application, assessment, hiring, and academy process, NOWHERE is there ever a point where these departments show ANY interest whatsoever in the applicant’s medical ability! Hand in a copy of your license and CPR card, and you’ve met the requirement.

    You could have any level of experience from “never set foot in an ambulance” to “10 years of morbidity and mortality,” but as long as the DOH never got a complaint, each applicant is treated as if they’re an ass-kicking lifesaving gift to medicine with no verification whatsoever. Get through the FIRE academy, and congratulations! Here’s your ambulance, here are our citizens, have a good career (you can bid to an engine in 6 months to a year)!

  18. You know what else I notice? EMS calls represent, on average, anywhere from 75-90% of the call volume in an fire-based EMS system. Yet throughout the firefighter application, assessment, hiring, and academy process, NOWHERE is there ever a point where these departments show ANY interest whatsoever in the applicant’s medical ability! Hand in a copy of your license and CPR card, and you’ve met the requirement.

    You could have any level of experience from “never set foot in an ambulance” to “10 years of morbidity and mortality,” but as long as the DOH never got a complaint, each applicant is treated as if they’re an ass-kicking lifesaving gift to medicine with no verification whatsoever. Get through the FIRE academy, and congratulations! Here’s your ambulance, here are our citizens, have a good career (you can bid to an engine in 6 months to a year)!

  19. Happy,
    I couldn’t agree more. I just recently completed my Paramedic training and certification. I had been an EMT-B for a little over a year and enjoyed what I was doing. I got the opportunity to go to paramedic school on the department’s dime and thought it would be a great opportunity for me to better myself and give me a better chance of getting a career job. Fortunately for me, the farther along I progressed in class, the more I loved EMS and wanted to be a paramedic. There were many people in my class that were just there to get their cert so they could try and get a full time gig. Their performance in class and in the field really showed that they were not really in the class because they wanted to be a paramedic. Now that I have a career job and am running on the streets as a medic every third day I am loving every minute of it but knowing there are others in the surrounding areas that are just medics to try and get a full time job makes me hope I never get sick or injured in their towns.

  20. Happy,
    I couldn’t agree more. I just recently completed my Paramedic training and certification. I had been an EMT-B for a little over a year and enjoyed what I was doing. I got the opportunity to go to paramedic school on the department’s dime and thought it would be a great opportunity for me to better myself and give me a better chance of getting a career job. Fortunately for me, the farther along I progressed in class, the more I loved EMS and wanted to be a paramedic. There were many people in my class that were just there to get their cert so they could try and get a full time gig. Their performance in class and in the field really showed that they were not really in the class because they wanted to be a paramedic. Now that I have a career job and am running on the streets as a medic every third day I am loving every minute of it but knowing there are others in the surrounding areas that are just medics to try and get a full time job makes me hope I never get sick or injured in their towns.

  21. what a good post. i think it’s funny people complain about being medics even though they knew what they were doing “just getting their medic license” so they can go to the fire department.

  22. what a good post. i think it’s funny people complain about being medics even though they knew what they were doing “just getting their medic license” so they can go to the fire department.

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