Michael Morse has long been one of my favorite EMS authors. It was a true honor when he asked me to write the foreword to his book “City Life.”
Reprinted here with Morse’s permission:
What kind of paramedic do I want to be?
How do I want to treat patients?
How do I want my patients and their families to remember me?
How can I avoid the burnout, cynicism and hatred I see in other medics?
I found Michael Morse’s blog, Rescuing Providence, and first book, “Rescuing Providence,” soon after I became a paramedic. With each shift on the ambulance I was increasingly asking myself those questions.
I was working on-call and had a different partner on almost every shift. I had some great partners and some not so great partners. And we always had patients, many living on the very margins of society that either through their struggle with mental illness, addiction, incarceration or chronic illness brought out the best or the worst in us. An unnecessary sternal rub on a drunk, an arm drop test on a seizing patient and high-speed driving and sharp turns felt more like patient assault than treatment.
Back at the station too many conversations tumbled downward to hate-filled, racial rants about the citizens of our response area. Looking back I suppose I could (and probably should have) taken a stand and confronted those medics. Instead of joining the conversation or limply standing by I retreated into EMS books and blogs.
Authors and EMS providers Michael Morse, Peter Canning, Kelly Grayson, Thom Dick and Michael Perry taught me more than I had learned in medic school or from my preceptors. They were a much-needed counterbalance to what I was experiencing on duty.
I learned that it is OK to always give the patient the benefit of the doubt, that the best treatment might be a warm blanket and that if I didn’t stand up for a patient no one would. I also learned that the choices we make to be a part of EMS have consequences for our loved ones. Did I really need the overtime shift, side job teaching, or second job at a different service?
Morse also showed me an outlet for the stress I was experiencing on the street. I needed an outlet that was safe for me, my wife and my young children. Like Morse I turned to writing, as well as exercise, to let go of the stress and not redirect it at my patients. As you read “City Life” – a collection of patient encounters – don’t mourn for Morse, look down at what he did or didn’t do for his patients, or even judge the patients.
Instead reflect on your own practice as a caregiver. What kind of paramedic, parent, spouse or friend do you want to be?
Greg Friese, MS, NRP