"It is only by following your deepest instinct that you can lead a rich life, and if you let your fear of consequences prevent you from following your deepest instinct, then your life will be safe and expedient and thin." --Katherine Butler Hathaway
For me, opportunity came knocking in the form of a hastily scrawled number on a blue Post-it note.
My boss was busy, and the name and number on the Post-it represented a waste of time. Nothing in his instincts told him the man who wanted to talk to someone about medical equipment design issues was anything more than another meeting and some hassle he didn't need. My instincts told me something different. So I offered to take the task off his hands, and that's how my journey down the path of a medical consultant for the biotechnology industry began.
There's something to be said for taking the path less traveled. There are some clear advantages to leaving the security of the well-trodden trail and venturing off into uncharted territory. If you've been looking for something a little different lately, perhaps a new challenge or a change of scenery, I'd like to tell you about some folks who've traveled less-traditional paths through their EMS careers.
Each of these individuals found different rewards on their journeys. Some found wealth, others found freedom, and some even found adventure, but all of them found personal growth and a job less average. These are just four of the countless ways to use your medical training in pursuit of a life less ordinary. Perhaps these stories will inspire you to head off on your own unique career adventure.
STEVE WHITEHEAD, BIOTECH CONSULTANT
The name and number on my Post-it note led me to a biotech product development team looking for a way to bring their medical device into the prehospital environment. Before our first meeting, I did my homework. I found out everything I could about the product they were developing, a patient cooling device. I also studied the current state of medical research in the field of therapeutic hypothermia.
On the day of our meeting, I was prepared with pointed questions about the status of the current product and good answers about things they might need to consider before taking it into the backs of moving vehicles. We discussed product options, design and safety. A few days after our first meeting, a contract showed up in my e-mail box for a long-term consulting gig with the company. I've been consulting with biotech companies ever since.
Working as a consultant is similar to working in EMS. Clients bring you problems, and you provide solutions. Clients have questions, and you find answers. People who are self-motivated, confident, hard-working and good with others can excel at this type of work. And the rewards are huge: Each project or meeting brings a new opportunity to learn something about the cutting edge of medical technology. The hourly rate for your time is more than some EMTs see in whole shifts. And someday, you may open a magazine and see a product you helped develop featured on its pages.
Working for design teams requires a think-for-yourself intuitive nature. You need to be able to recognize what the client needs next. It requires an ability to look beyond the question at hand and identify what problem the team is really looking to solve. Then you find a way to get the answers they need. It also requires some field experience, but not as much as you might think.
When one of my clients brought me a nasogastric tube and asked where to place a temperature probe, I didn't have a clue. I had never inserted a nasogastic tube before. But I knew where to find a whole bunch of people who had. I asked the client for a few days to work on it, and then I wandered through a few ERs asking nurses, "Say, if this temperature probe were going to be attached to this NG tube, where would you put it?" A few days later, the client had more than my opinion; he had a survey with detailed feedback from an experienced team of nurses.