The Write Stuff--Part 1: Introduction

The Write Stuff--Part 1: Introduction

By Mike Rubin Dec 30, 2010

Welcome to the first installment of The Write Stuff, a tutorial for those of you who'd like to try writing for EMS. Opportunities for content providers have never been better. Today's target-rich environment includes not only EMS World Magazine and, but many other industry-specific media hungry for fresh material.

Not sure you want to write? That's understandable. Getting published isn't easy. Neither is managing unstable patients--something many of you do daily. If you're looking for a new challenge and have something to say (I've never met an EMS provider who didn't), perhaps the progressive guidance we'll offer during the next 12 months will give you the confidence and capability to conceive, propose, plan, produce and submit manuscripts that are both entertaining and enlightening. That's the key, really. Our objective as writers isn't simply to write; we also want people to enjoy what we've written.

Writing for an audience is hard. If you speak with practitioners of other art forms--drawing, singing or sculpting, for example--they'll likely admit to many failures while learning their craft. It's important to have realistic expectations and, even in the absence of success, enjoy the ride.

Forty years ago I wanted to be a professional hockey player. I knew that was unlikely, but hockey was in my blood. I was tutored by some of the most skillful players on the planet, practiced almost every day and got game experience several times a week. After a few years I realized I didn't have enough talent to get to the next level. I let it go, stuck to amateur hockey and never regretted trying to do better. It would have been much harder for me not to know if I might have made it.

I like the goal suggested by novelist Stephen King in On Writing, a must-read for anyone serious about getting published. King acknowledges a hierarchy of bad, competent, good and great writers, then theorizes it isn't possible to make a bad writer competent or a good one great. The best he can do, he says, is help a competent writer get better. We'll try to do the same while limiting our scope to non-fiction. Here's a preliminary agenda:

  • Part 1: Introduction--goals, philosophy, agenda.
  • Part 2: Getting started--generating ideas, choosing topics and planning content.
  • Part 3: Developing publishing contacts; submitting queries and proposals to editors.
  • Part 4: Language, structure, essential elements of composition.
  • Part 5: Using protected material--references, citations, quotations, graphics.
  • Part 6: Grammar--common mistakes.
  • Part 7: Establishing your style.
  • Part 8: Self-critique--reviewing, rewriting, polishing.
  • Part 9: Editors and editing.
  • Part 10: Summary.
  • Part 11: Case study--development of the December 2011 Life Support column for EMS World.

Why write about EMS? Not for the money. There aren't enough of us in the audience to justify the premium rates advertisers pay to appear in popular publications like Time and People. Modest compensation for print submissions--less for online content--is a reality of EMS-oriented media. Even the most talented writers in our business need multiple sources of income.

Once you accept that writing about EMS is even less lucrative than doing EMS, there are still plenty of reasons to give it a try:

  • Share what you know. You can help our industry mature by offering fresh points of view for colleagues to consider. Subjects aren't limited to prehospital procedures, vehicles and equipment. Quality improvement, productivity measurement, inventory control, systems design, employee management, finance and planning are areas where EMS agencies often lack expertise. Relevant research is almost always valuable, but even an anecdote or two can be appealing.
  • Learn by communicating. Whether I'm teaching, writing or presenting, I always learn more about my topic during the creative process. Preparation of timely, thought-provoking material is some of the most effective continuing education you'll ever encounter.
  • Create something unique. Earlier I compared writing to other art forms. Each of them is an opportunity to differentiate yourself, to leave a legacy more lasting than conversation. People may debate what writers meant, but not what writers wrote.
  • Network. Getting published places you in the public arena. If you create a positive experience for your readers, you'll hear from some of them. Developing contacts usually is a win-win situation for you and your correspondents.
  • Vent. Writing can be cathartic. It's okay to be passionate about your work if your audience feels as good reading it as you did writing it.

Let us know if you have questions or comments along the way. Your participation can only enhance our efforts.

Mike Rubin, BS, NREMT-P, is a paramedic in Nashville, TN, and a member of EMS World's editorial advisory board. Contact him at


Continue Reading
Firefighters trained with the local hospital in a drill involving a chemical spill, practicing a decontamination process and setting up a mass casualty tent for patient treatment.
The simulations involved having the medics crawl into tight spaces and practice intubation on patients who are difficult to reach.
Register for this year's Pediatric EMS Conference to improve your ability to provide care to young patients and receive continuing education credits.
How virtual reality can enhance first responders’ critical incident response skills
Fire, rescue, and police personnel practiced responding to tornado disasters and chemical spills.
The online program is designed to better equip first responders, law enforcement, social workers, drug counselors and others directly involved with dealing with the opioid crisis.
EMS challenges us all in countless ways every day. Similarly, as an EMT student, you will be faced with quizzes and exams of different types throughout your EMS education. Knowing and using the tools you have in your toolkit will prepare you for all of them.
The camp will show girls ages 8 through 16 what it's like to be in the fire service, training them in CPR, using fire equipment, and taking a trip to the Emergency Operations Center.
The program first trains students to become certified EMTs and then progresses to paramedic training.

Register now for the May 8 PCRF Journal Club podcast, which features special guest Dr. Seth A. Brown who, with his co-authors, recently published a qualitative study examining ways to improve pediatric EMS education.

The exercise tested multiple agencies in their ability to handle a scenario involving hazardous substances.
Sponsored by the EMS Council of New Jersey, over 100 youth from 16 New Jersey and New York volunteer emergency medical organizations competed in the June 10 Bayshore EMS Cadet/Youth Competition.

Which proved to be fastest for providers wearing Level C protective gear?

Reviewed this Month

Airway Management in Disaster Response: A Manikin Study Comparing Direct and Video Laryngoscopy for Endotracheal Intubation by Prehospital Providers in Level C Personal Protective Equipment.

Authors: Yousif S, Machan JT, Alaska Y, Suner S. 
Published in: Prehosp Disaster Med, 2017
Mar 20; 32(4): 1–5.

In an effort to counter active shooters in schools, teachers and administrators with concealed carry permits receive firearms training.

Can new technology improve the performance of disconnected remote learners?

Each month the Prehospital Care Research Forum combs the literature to identify recent studies relevant to EMS education practices. In this segment PCRF board member Megan Corry shares her insight on research that can help bring evidence-based practices to EMS education.