Professionalism? What are you reading Fire Critic?

My good friend Fire Critic recently posted a quote from a text he is reading about Professionalism in the Fire Service.

READ IT HERE.

A new window will open, you’ll read it, then come back. You know the drill.

I really hope this quote was out of context because it is the farthest thing from a definition of Professionalism I have read in a long time.  Professionalism starts far before and goes far beyond conduct on the fireground and in no means is it the best or only way to prove our worth to the community.  If that was the case I would be working for one of the premiere professional services in the world.

I was originally not commenting on the subject and just letting it go, but I wondered how many younger members may read that and run with it.  Rhett is not a silent or small voice in the modern Fire Service and such a quote unchallenged will only reinforce the rampant un-Professionalism I see permeating our ranks.

Not long ago it was an offense to be out of quarters without cover on.  That means wearing a hat for you younger folk.  Now there are departments wearing shorts.  SHORTS!  I’ll admit, I tried it once during a hot summer in the southwest and I felt like a teenager, not a Professional.  Others go out wearing T-shirts, some of those ratty, holes, lettering fading or, worse yet, a shirt from another agency.  Ever seen an FDNY or CFD shirt somewhere that wasn’t NY or Chicago?

Professionalism starts with the way you carry yourself, your appearance and the way you interact with those whom you encounter.  This is all before the bells even ring.

I could start listing off all the things that I think go into being a Professional, but since the quote from Rhett is a simple statement, I offer the following:

“Professionalism is carrying out your responsibilities to the best of your ability, be they the most mundane or the most exciting, the simple or the complex, the recognized or, most importantly, the unnoticed.”

I quote Rodney Dangerfield, “You wanna know what class is? It’s when you’re alone and you fart and you say ‘Excuse me.'”

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10 thoughts on “Professionalism? What are you reading Fire Critic?”

  1. Older brother was a City firefighter in the late 70’s and 80’s. The dress code has relaxed considerably in thirty years. Professionally I feel the current crop better trained and each experience more positive than previous.

  2. Older brother was a City firefighter in the late 70’s and 80’s. The dress code has relaxed considerably in thirty years. Professionally I feel the current crop better trained and each experience more positive than previous.

  3. “Professionalism is carrying out your responsibilities to the best of your ability, be they the most mundane or the most exciting, the simple or the complex, the recognized or, most importantly, the unnoticed.”

    Well put!

  4. “Professionalism is carrying out your responsibilities to the best of your ability, be they the most mundane or the most exciting, the simple or the complex, the recognized or, most importantly, the unnoticed.”

    Well put!

  5. I couldn’t agree more. Before I became a full time fire medic I spent several years on a combination department (which I continue to work for in my spare time) and it was a constant struggle for me to impart that despite the fact we were not career members we still had the responsibility to conduct ourselves in a professional manner. It is a battle I continue to fight.

    I believe my career department is one of the most professional departments in our metro area. Our chief has really put an emphasis on being “customer” oriented and we do a very good job of it. As far as appearance, we don’t go as far as to require class B uniforms but we are required to wear polo shirts. While they are not as sharp as wearing class B uniforms they look much better than the t-shirts and shorts the so called “premiere” department in the area wears.

  6. I couldn’t agree more. Before I became a full time fire medic I spent several years on a combination department (which I continue to work for in my spare time) and it was a constant struggle for me to impart that despite the fact we were not career members we still had the responsibility to conduct ourselves in a professional manner. It is a battle I continue to fight.

    I believe my career department is one of the most professional departments in our metro area. Our chief has really put an emphasis on being “customer” oriented and we do a very good job of it. As far as appearance, we don’t go as far as to require class B uniforms but we are required to wear polo shirts. While they are not as sharp as wearing class B uniforms they look much better than the t-shirts and shorts the so called “premiere” department in the area wears.

  7. Justin,
    I agree that a professional appearance can speak volumes to the public, but in order for it to embody professionalism instead of just portraying it there needs to be more. Professionalism means performing your job in a manner that is respectful and appropriate. A class “B”shirt doesn’t save your sick septic patient, your skill set and calm professional demeanor does. You can wear a t-shirt and duty slacks or even BDUs and enter a chaotic scene, respectfully address your patient and their loved ones, begin quick and appropriate treatment, transport them to the appropriate hospital, and they walk out without deficits due to your timely response and interventions/treatment. I would argue that, that patient will not likely remember what exactly you were wearing except that it was probably blue, but they will remember your care and professionalism, with respect to your skill set and that you treated them respectfully and appropriately as though they were your own family. I’m not advocating looking sloppy, wearing faded, worn out clothes, I think that there is a patently unprofessional appearance. That said, mere appearances are exactly that without the skill set to do your job without pause or fail as the public expects. Depth of training/skills and a willingness to do the job with a smile and a good attitude no matter what time of day or what the call is, not wardrobe makes the difference between appearance and embodiment of professionalism for me. Over the years I’ve seen and worked with a lot of well dressed Fire and EMS personnel who didn’t give a damn about their patients or doing their jobs correctly because they felt as though the public should appreciate them because they were on the job, but it doesn’t work like that we gain true respect from our abilities not just riding on the apparatus or what we’re wearing. Obviously this struck a chord for me.

  8. Justin,
    I agree that a professional appearance can speak volumes to the public, but in order for it to embody professionalism instead of just portraying it there needs to be more. Professionalism means performing your job in a manner that is respectful and appropriate. A class “B”shirt doesn’t save your sick septic patient, your skill set and calm professional demeanor does. You can wear a t-shirt and duty slacks or even BDUs and enter a chaotic scene, respectfully address your patient and their loved ones, begin quick and appropriate treatment, transport them to the appropriate hospital, and they walk out without deficits due to your timely response and interventions/treatment. I would argue that, that patient will not likely remember what exactly you were wearing except that it was probably blue, but they will remember your care and professionalism, with respect to your skill set and that you treated them respectfully and appropriately as though they were your own family. I’m not advocating looking sloppy, wearing faded, worn out clothes, I think that there is a patently unprofessional appearance. That said, mere appearances are exactly that without the skill set to do your job without pause or fail as the public expects. Depth of training/skills and a willingness to do the job with a smile and a good attitude no matter what time of day or what the call is, not wardrobe makes the difference between appearance and embodiment of professionalism for me. Over the years I’ve seen and worked with a lot of well dressed Fire and EMS personnel who didn’t give a damn about their patients or doing their jobs correctly because they felt as though the public should appreciate them because they were on the job, but it doesn’t work like that we gain true respect from our abilities not just riding on the apparatus or what we’re wearing. Obviously this struck a chord for me.

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