When Johnny Met Rosie--Women in EMS Part 2: Romancing the Badge

The idea of a workplace relationship, regardless of where that workplace happens to be, is usually deemed a bad idea.


"Having someone wonder where you are when you don't come home at night is a very old human need." --Margaret Mead

A long time ago, in a first aid squad far, far away, I sat in my very first EMT class, raptly listening to the instructor lecturing us on the finer points of patient assessment. He told us that we would be having "hands-on" practice later, which elicited the usual ripple of snickers and comments about palpation and the necessary details of any thorough head-to-toe assessment. Once the giggling subsided, the instructor informed us in a very stern voice that we could put that out of our heads right now; that there was "no sex in first aid."

Two weeks later, he asked me out to dinner.

And therein lies the first lesson when it comes to the age-old dynamic of men and women in EMS: There are two sexes, not one. We're not talking rocket science here folks...just basic biology. Let's take a man and a woman, put them in a confined space for hours at a time, and then, just for giggles, subject them to emotional, physical and environmental extremes without any advance warning. They work through hours of boredom with only each other for company, along with intense periods where they must work on, over and under each other with fierce intent in order to help save someone's life. You don't need to be an Iron Chef to realize what recipe comes out of those not-so-secret ingredients.

The lesson to take from this is that it is statistically far more likely you will have some level of romantic relationship with a partner or co-worker at some point in the course of your career than of being hit by a meteor, or just about anything else. One could almost say it's inevitable. Know what the acronym used in studies for "extramarital sex" is? You guessed it: EMS.

The idea of a workplace relationship, regardless of where that workplace happens to be, is usually deemed a bad idea. However, in a career-focused society, you are more likely to meet someone from or related to your work environment than anywhere else. Again, not complicated. It's a simple matter of compatibility that comes with common territory. In a recent poll in Marie Claire regarding office relationships, approximately 60% of those polled had slept with a co-worker and 30% had married someone they dated at work. Those numbers are across the board, not EMS-specific. So every workplace has its soap operas, but, subjectively speaking, I don't think I have ever seen an industry as inbred as ours. I would argue that our numbers are higher--way higher. There are plenty of solid reasons for that.

EMS and, by extension, emergency services in general, is such a unique environment that it requires its own skill-set to successfully navigate. It has its own rules, its own language, and requires a level of emotional and practical understanding that is unmatched in most other professions. We can communicate in a bizarre patois of acronyms and abbreviations, go for days with little to no sleep, and we find the more gruesome aspects of life quite funny at times. Is it really a shock that we tend to only socialize within our circle? It's not like we make very good dates at a formal affair. Well, we can--most of us clean up pretty well--but inevitably someone asks about work, usually during the entrée.

Even if the person you're seeing is not in the middle of EMS, he or she can usually see it from the police, fire or emergency department. It's rare to see a career EMS provider in a long-term relationship with a completely non-EMS person. Where I'm from, most paramedics have two jobs at minimum and work in excess of 60 hours a week. It doesn't leave much time for traditional socializing. Anyway, we suck at small talk; it always turns to work.

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