The Timing Was Right

A few years ago, I received a voice mail from my service’s medical director.  He asked me to call him back.  That had never happened before, and I was a bit nervous. I called him back, left him a message, and went into work for a night shift.

After picking up dinner a few hours later, we were sent to a crash with a reported ejection around the corner.   A few seconds later we found a vehicle engulfed in flames and patients scattered across the road.  It was a scene unlike any I had been on, before or since.  I ended up transporting one of the ejected patients who had a fractured pelvis and was hypotensive.  Our medical director happened to be working in ED that night.  After I gave my report to the trauma team and things settled down he pulled me aside.  He told me that there was an opening for an administrator at our state EMS office, and my name had come up as a potential candidate.  I thought for a few seconds, looked at my patient who was about to be moved to CT, and told him I appreciated being considered, but was still having too much fun to give up the street yet.  He nodded, also looked at the patient, smiled, and said he understood.

I thought it was ironic that we happened to have that conversation after that call instead of a less memorable one.  I had some dark periods in the past when I thought about leaving the field, and  wonder if my response would have been different had we met at the end of a night shift when I was back logged with charts to write.  But at the time I was pretty content, and idea of taking care of patients as a paramedic seemed much more enjoyable than the administrator position.  It was also bad timing.  My wife had just gotten established her work situation after our first son was born, and it would have been difficult for her if I gave up shift work.  It didn’t feel right.

Over the two years years after that conversation in the trauma bay, I went on to care for some of the most complicated patients of my career .  Some of those calls went well, and others were valuable learning experiences which I am glad to have had.  I also taught some continuing education classes for my service, and got experience planning lessons and  presenting.  I found myself daydreaming about speaking in front of a class and pit-crew resuscitation olympics, and wished that I had more time to teach.  Then one day, at the same trauma center, after a call that I do not remember, I ran into a clinical instructor for our community college’s paramedic program.  I had taught as an adjunct there in the past, but had not had time to for a while.  She told me that the program was expanding and that there would be an opening for a full-time instructor.  We talked about it a bit, and I told her I would think about it.

This was a much more difficult decision, and I went back and forth for a while.  I still enjoyed taking care of patients, and working on a truck felt very comfortable.  There would be a steep learning curve with teaching full-time, in addition to relearning all the material I do not frequently apply.  My 15 minute commute would turn into an hour.  I also thought about much the idea of teaching seemed so much more appealing than any other career advancement opportunities.  I thought how EMS education is changing, and how I would get to be a part of that change.  I thought about the educators who had an impact on my career, and how I could be in that position for the next generation.  My wife pledged to support whatever I chose, even though her career and our childcare had been based around the shift work that I would give up to teach.  The teaching position would also start around when she was scheduled to return from maternity leave after our second son was born, which would be a good time for her to adopt a new schedule.  It felt right and I made the leap.

When I look back on my career, I think about how lucky I have been.  There have been a number of serendipitous moments like those conversations at the hospital that turned into opportunities that I would never have predicted. I’ve been teaching full-time for about a year now.  I have learned so much, from simulation to the flipped classroom, clinical instruction to testing, and have so much more to learn.  My first group of students is in their field internship, and I am so proud of what they have accomplished over the past year.  I do miss the street, though, and hope to find part-time medic work soon.  It was the right choice, and I’m glad the opportunity opened when it did.


  1. jack Sullivan says:

    Hi Bob. Great article about your career change. BTW, what is the pit crew resuscitation olympics?


  1. […] I completed my first full year teaching with a paramedic program.  I learned a few things about adult education theory during that time as well as how to get […]

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