If You Haven’t Opened a Book Since School, You Probably Won’t Read This Anyway

It was the year 2000.  The Twin Towers stood tall, everyone was drunk with money they made from Al Gore’s internet, and race cars were driven by men.  I had just hit the streets of Buffalo as a cocky, know-it-all EMT, and was in college as a communications major.

In my classes, a major point of discussion was whether advertising on the internet was effective.  We were taught that banner adds had not proven to increase sales, and at the time television, radio, and print advertising were more effective.

At work, there was a debate among the paramedics about whether 12-lead ECG’s were necessary.  They would not change our treatment, it was argued, and would just add scene time.

Now imagine graduating from college and going to work for an ad agency.  Perhaps it made great commercials and print ads, but never bought into the whole internet thing.  Once in a while a rogue medic employee might mention something about Twitter or Facebook, but that wasn’t something the bosses were interested in.  Someone else might have wowed everyone with an iPad, but advertising there didn’t fit the mold either.  A crowd may have even gathered around cubicle to click on GoDaddy.com, not knowing what it was, but hoping to see an attractive female NASCAR driver take the rest of her race suit off.  As if.  If even the internet activity generated by the false promise of sex was not enough motivation to evolve, how long would it stay in business?  In the world outside of EMS, failure to evolve means extinction.

Now imagine if an EMS system continued to operate the same way it did 20 years ago. In some placed, patients to be given high flow oxygen years after the AHA has said it is harmful for ACS and stroke.  People who roll their car over get two IV’s and a helicopter.  Just in case.  And cardiac arrest patients would still be intubated at the expense of everything else. 

They’re just doing what the National Standard Curriculum from the 1990’s says to do, and they  pretend not to notice the world changing around them. It’s comfortable.  It’s familiar.  No strutcture is in place to do anything else.  But it just doesn’t work. Even textbook authors acknowledge that much of their material is obsolete before anyone gets to read it, so they’re already behind on the day they get their card.

The tag on Steve Whitehead’s EMT Spot says it all: Medicine Moves Fast…Keep Up!   With so many great journals, websites, podcasts, and blogs, it’s a struggle for us forward thinking EMS’ers to do that.  At the other end of the spectrum, unfortunately, are the people who are content doing only what they were taught in school throughout a career.  They may even have done will in that school, so they resist changes.  I”m afraid there are more of them than us right now, but that is changing.  As Billy Joel says,  ’cause the gold ole’ days weren’t all that good, and tomorrow ain’t as bad as it seems. 

Internal and external forces are about to collide, and real change is coming.  The way we’ve always done  will no longer be athings will no longer be an option.  Some EMS people, some services, and some delivery models will not survive, and that is okay. Other professions, such as nursing, have evolved into a much stronger profession after some growing pains.  I believe we will too, and the rest of us will never look back.


  1. Change is good. Embrace it. Especially in EMS, it’s only going to get better-for everyone. There’s no room in the back of the rig for medics who can’t or won’t evolve.
    I love to see what you guys are doing now and how things change. When I first started as an EMT we were lugging around car batteries and jumper cables to defib—OK, almost as heavy…the Lifepak 4 !!
    Keep up the good work!

Speak Your Mind