Throughout my many years of teaching I noticed that some of my EMS students seemed to be suffering from a condition known as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Many EMT students considered themselves "sparks" in the field. I would mentally refer to them as triple As: "always impulsive, always inattentive and always living on the edge. They became energized when they spoke about EMS, seemed to be the only ones who came across unusual calls, and they thrived on going to the next call. In the EMS field, we have to learn to take care of ourselves. If you are having any problems with peers, employers or difficulties staying on task, you might be suffering from ADHD. There is help for the condition, and you can become very successful if you are treated appropriately.
What is ADHD?
ADHD is one of the most commonly diagnosed mental disorders of children and can continue during adult years. Thirty to 40% of all referrals to child guidance centers are the result of symptoms of ADHD.1 Some children have never been diagnosed and therefore have never received treatment. Adults also suffer from ADHD and seek treatment when they cannot focus, complete tasks at their job or have behavior issues. ADHD usually presents itself with problems associated with attention, hyperactivity and impulsivity. Between 30% and 70% of all children with ADHD continue to manifest symptoms in adult life.2 If you have these symptoms, they may impact your job as an EMT or paramedic. Some questions to consider are:
- Do you have difficulty listening to your partner or others at the scene of an EMS call?
- Are you easily distracted and frequently jump to different tasks at accident scenes, or have trouble organizing your tasks?
- Do you avoid tasks that require prolonged attention, like gathering information or writing run forms?
- Are your thoughts rapidly changing at work?
- Do you ever forget pertinent aspects after a call?
- Are you constantly interrupting others when talking with your peers or have difficulty listening when spoken to?
- Do you get fidgety listening to EMS lectures or in continuing education classes?
- Do you ever blurt out comments or butt in when your peers are verbally reviewing their previous calls or treatments?
- Do you interrupt the doctors or nurses in the emergency department?
- Are you always looking for another EMS job?
- Do you have difficulty falling asleep?
- Are you constantly talking on your cell phone or using your IPOD or Iphone?
- Do you have a short fuse or become angry easily?
- Did you have learning disabilities while you attended school?
Prominent/Core Symptoms of ADHD3
- Short attention span
- Inability to "fit in" with some of your peers
- Explosive and irritable behavior
- Sleep difficulties
- Unpredictable moods and performance
- Feelings of negativity
- Poor concentration.
Some of the above behaviors may manifest themselves in the following ways:
- Avoidance of activities that require sustained attention like reading, or building a model car or airplane.
- You do not always complete a task, especially if interrupted by phone calls or co-workers.
- You may find yourself checking off the change of shift ambulance list and not really looking at all required safety checks.
- You may be an impulsive buyer and have a strong desire to buy every new gadget available.
- You may make some decisions impulsively before thinking of all the consequences.
- You continuously have trouble with co-workers or desire to change jobs frequently due to disagreements with your employers or peers.
- You become obsessive of girl/boyfriends and engage in impulsive types of behaviors and activities.
- You never get your paperwork done in the required time frame.
- You always wait anxiously for the next EMS call.
- You find yourself getting up and moving around on numerous occasions.
- You need to be doing something all the time and don’t know how to relax.