I was a paramedic when I stopped running emergency calls in the 1980s. It was a good run—about 12 years on the streets and maybe 10,000 9-1-1 calls, mostly with the City and County of Denver. I kept peripherally involved with the EMS world through teaching and writing until 2003, when I stepped away entirely to pursue other interests.
When my much-loved German shepherd died in 2011 at age 14, I began to think about getting back into EMS as a volunteer, maybe training a SAR dog. My life has settled down. I can arrange my own work hours, so I’m able and willing to leave for several weeks at a time, if called. I’m stronger than I’ve ever been, and humbly grateful for good health.
It seemed a good idea to renew some credentials while awaiting the arrival of my new pup. Last summer (2011), I took the EMT-Wilderness course in Lander, WY, because the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) is a nationally-recognized leader in the field. The add-on of the wilderness component seemed appropriate. I came home to Michigan from my summer out west and joined the local fire department because I wanted to give back here at home, too, and also keep that new found (if basic) information fresh and ready to use.
Here’s what I remember about loving the work of emergency care: the patients. The unpredictability. The prehospital environment. Being able to step in and help in situations that are overwhelming to others.
Here are the three main reasons why I left: I admit, the shift work was a problem (it’s amazing how much nicer I am when I sleep regular hours). Burned-out partners with clear disregard for their own safety. They were frightening, since the silent code is that one backs up one’s partner (and mine were often trying to get us both killed). Then there was the bureaucracy. Recertification and the regulations surrounding certification just stopped being worth the time and effort after 25 years.
Here’s why I want to work in emergency service again: I love helping people. I really do. And I love being part of a team of (unburned-out) like-minded colleagues.
After several meetings with the chief, and then joining Ada Fire Department (MI), there was, of course, a lot of paperwork, including the application for a Michigan EMT card. Shoulda been a no-brainer, right? I had my NREMT and an EMT card from an internationally-recognized source.
The great state of Michigan will grant an EMT license to people who take a Michigan EMT course after they pass the NREMT exam. But it doesn’t allow NREMT reciprocity if the course was out of state, unless (and here’s the kicker) I add another 72 hours (!) of CE credit. That’s more than double what an already-licensed Michigan EMT would need after three years in order to recertify, but no one in the state office seems to think that’s unreasonable, illogical or nonsensical.
My NREMT card isn’t relevant, I’m told, because the busy folks in the state office said they just can’t go around checking whether out-of-state EMT courses measure up to Michigan’s standards—even if the applicant has passed the same exam Michigan requires of applicants who have taken an in-state EMT class.
My only other option, they told me, was to go out and get an EMT card from another state. Irritating, and expensive, but OK. This was doable. I applied in my old home state of Colorado and am now—once again—a proud card-carrying Colorado EMT (the first was awarded to me in 1977). I sent the required paperwork to the Michigan EMS licensing office, and—again—heard nothing. For two months. Not until I inquired about the status of my application. (The lack of responsiveness is a different, but no less questionable, situation in the mind of this taxpayer.)