Any Surprise? Do you agree?

January 12

Recently, CareerCast published a list of the 10 worst jobs in America in 2011 and low and behold coming in at number 6 – EMT.

“On the other hand, jobs like EMT have considerably better hiring prospects, but rank among the 10 worst jobs of 2011 due to harsh working conditions, high stress and inexcusably low pay given the extremely important nature of the work.” Source

Reading through the list it seems the factors they weighed into their rankings were : Work environment, Stress, Physical demands and hiring outlook it also seems they weighed in average pay across the nation. According to this site – the 5 jobs worse then EMT : Roustabout, Iron Worker, Lumberjack, Roofer, Taxi Driver in order from 1 to 5.

I have worked a few of those jobs throughout the years, and I have known people that have worked the ones I haven’t. I agree they are all worse jobs then being an EMT, but not for the reasons the site says.

For those of you that do not know my history, I walked away from owning a successful residential remodeling company to return to EMS, taking a SUBSTANTIAL pay cut in the process. Since making that decision I haven’t looked back even a single time.

The ranking may be helpful for someone considering entering this profession, possibly alerting them to what they are getting into. I’ve seen the wide eyed wonder drain out of many noob’s eyes when they realize this job isn’t what most people think it is. For those people, I can see where a list such as this may be helpful. However, for those who have been around for more than a couple years, it’s no surprise that an outsider would rank our chosen profession so low.

The list does take into consideration the low pay, the “disrespect”, the strenuous conditions and the stress – I do not dispute any of those things – they are all a part of the job. There are a number of other factors that I can see being viewed negatively by folks both inside and outside the profession – what I don’t see factored into the ranking are the rewards.

Speaking only for myself – I didn’t come back to EMS for the money or for the “hero” image – I had done this long enough before leaving the field that both of those bubbles had been burst for me. I didn’t come back for the adrenaline rush, or the driving fast or any of the other things a lot of folks enter the field for – I came back for the intangible rewards of the job.

Not many people get the opportunity to know they make a difference is someones life – I’m not talking about the naive notion that – we save lives for a living… sure on the rare occasion it does happen – but that isn’t what we do everyday. When it does happen its more timing and luck then anything we do. What we do do (if we are any good at this job) is make what is potentially the worst day of a person’s life better.

Riding to the hospital with 95 yo nana while gently holding her hand and maybe even coaxing a smile from her – knowing that she will remember my face long after she has faded into my memory… knowing my presence alone made what was an incredibly difficult experience for her better in whatever small way – that’s a reward most people don’t get.

I’ve described this job many times as the highest highs and the lowest lows and sometimes the two are separated by one call… an emotional roller coaster some days.

When it’s all said and done and I take off my boots for the last time years from now (I hope) I will “retire” from the streets knowing without a doubt that I made a difference – a real difference in making people’s lives better. For me that makes being an EMT the best job in the world and makes every other job out there ahead of it on the worst jobs list.

What about you? Are you surprised by the rating? Do you agree with it?



Posted by on January 12, 2012 in EMS, EMT, Personal


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3 responses to “Any Surprise? Do you agree?

  1. CCC

    January 12, 2012 at 16:13

    I’m not surprised at all.

    We have an incredibly high turnover rate in EMS. I attended EMT school 13 years ago, and Paramedic school 8 years ago. I am still in contact with the vast majority of my fellow students from those classes, and less than 5 percent are still employed in EMS.

    I read a study somewhere one time (vague, right?) that mentioned the average length of stay in EMS was 6 months to 1 year. I can’t argue with that at all. It sure sounds right.

    With that much turnover, there are bound to be some disgruntled employees.

    But from the outside, yeah, this job sucks. We get bled, puked, peed and pooped on every day. We get talked down to by firefighters, nurses, doctors, patients, baristas, and toddlers. We get paid pennies to work in the rain, on holidays, over nights, and routinely miss out on family and personal time.

    I am perfectly happy with the conclusion of the article. I would rather have a few dedicated people to call colleagues, than to have a bunch of yahoos who want to go fast, and get their hands bloody.

    • hotlightsandcoldsteel

      January 12, 2012 at 16:16

      I could not have said it better myself CCC

  2. Jack Bode

    January 13, 2012 at 06:59

    I’ve only started frequenting various EMS blogs for a couple of months now. It has been an interesting and educational experience and I’m learning a lot about just how much differently things are done around the country.

    One of the most surprising discoveries has been reading about low pay and poor working conditions. As a consequence, I have a newly found appreciation for my employer.

    I wouldn’t call my working conditions harsh, though there are times where I’d rather be somewhere else. There is no doubt some of the environments we find ourselves in are potentially dangerous and the risk of injury has been historically high. But I wouldn’t trade this for an office job – and I’ve had an office job.

    I don’t consider EMS stressful. Maybe its due to “growing up” in this vocation by being a volunteer at age 16 and having spent the last 40 plus years responding to 911 calls. Maybe I just don’t know any better.

    I will say that I had a second “career” for 20 years that was a whole lot more stressful.

    As for compensation, by any yard stick, my department pays well. It is a 40 hour workweek, working 4 days a week. We are public employees with a nice benefit package, including an excellent defined benefit retirement plan – that’s healthy when compared to other states.

    Subsequently, we don’t have a high turnover rate. Looking over our seniority list, we have 125 medics – 33 of which have over 20 years with the department. About a dozen of us fall between the ages of 55 to 62.

    One of the things I’ve appreciated in recent years has been the high quality of new hires; and I’m not just speaking about being good medics – they are good people. When I started out, if you had a pulse and had your credentials they would take you. These days the department takes the hiring process very seriously.

    How busy are we? I don’t know how we compare to other services. I do know that our medics, depending on what your schedule is, will respond to 900-1400 emergency calls a year. Our department’s UHU was 0.43 last year.

    I don’t think I work that hard, overall.

    Anyway, you asked what I thought….. there it is.


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