I was asked this question by a rather influential law maker recently and my answer surprised me.
Being someone who used to hate the term “First Responder” thinking it dumbed us down, I realized we had to be dumbed down for the general public to grasp what we did day in and day out. The term is not accurate, but then again, when has the TV and radio ever been given the opportunity to learn why we are so secretive about what we do? Be it HIPAA or a desire not to owe steaks or ice cream, we avoid the press like the plague, then reprimand them for not knowing what we’re doing.
So there I was, being asked what a “First Responder” was.
“A neighbor coming to another’s aide,” I started, “A father seeing signs of distress in a friend’s child, a teacher noting the early signs of an allergic reaction in a student, a college professor noting a suspicious package, today, we’re all first responders.”
I gulped, thinking I had just sold a generation of actual “responders” down the river, discounting them to be equals with a school teacher who deploys an Ei-pen.
But we’re not, are we?
In a community that looks out for one another, we are not needed. We are a footnote in the history books of when people used to need emergency care via tiny mobile hospitals. EMS becomes a truly unneeded service, except for the rare true emergency. Not unlike the Fire Service has found themselves, all full of budget and not sure what to do with it. How did they become so successful at putting themselves out of business?
It is my goal to put EMS out of business. It should be every Paramedic and EMTs goal to do the same. We may have the occasional emergency, sure, but the day to day BS we deal with needs to go away.
And perhaps if neighbor started helping neighbor, friend started helping friend and we all realized the sweeping epidemics of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer and did something about it maybe, just maybe, we could actually see our call volume start to drop. See our stress levels start to decline, and see the eventual funeral not for another neighbor, friend or family member, but for EMS as we know it.
Get involved in your own community. Be a first responder to those you meet by chance, not by dispatch, and become a positive force for change in your own community.
If Uncle John is able to lose weight and exercise, maybe he won’t need Medicare so soon. If your neighbor recognizes his need for asthma care and to quit smoking, he lives another 20 years to contribute to the community.
We can make a difference in our communities, EMTs or Paramedics or just regular folken.
Get involved, be the force for positive change you’re waiting for.
It doesn’t take a badge, look below it. It takes heart.