“Sorry but I want someone really wants to be any EMT not someone who had a 4.0 GPA with a BA/BS treating me” [quoted as published]
When I saw that post from an EMS provider on Facebook, I thought, Here’s someone with the same concern lots of us have about college grads: Do they make good EMTs?
Sure, smart folks know stuff (like punctuation), but at the end of the day or even end of the night, who would you want taking care of you—Albert Einstein, who wouldn’t know a nebulizer from a neutron, or an EMT who can fasten a KED quicker than you can say, “My baby looks hot tonight”?
Can you imagine Einstein showing up at your house to treat your tachy arrhythmia? “Now, Mike, I might have to bombard your viscera with subatomic particles at the speed of light, which, as we all know, equals the square root of energy over mass.” I might be too intimidated to suggest meds instead of subatomic particles. And what if I’ve forgotten what viscera means?
This is where those of us with less education have an advantage: We don’t talk about subatomic particles or bombarding viscera too often. We use smaller words like “shock” that you don’t need college, or even high school, to understand. Whom would you rather hang out with—an EMT who shocks you when you need it, or some egghead who just stands there and talks about your viscera?
Another thing about people with degrees: Did you ever notice how much trouble they have doing simple things? They’re good with numbers, but try to teach Rhodes scholars how to change O2 bottles, and their minds tend to wander. If that happens in the field, you’re going to have issues, not to mention less oxygen.
But seriously, folks...
The value of college degrees can be hard to pin down. It reminds me of trying to convince my son he should have better health insurance. I told him, “You might never need it, but you probably will.” Knowledge is similar: You never know when it’ll help, and more is better than less.
That doesn’t mean we should exaggerate the role of academia. Does education make us more professional? That depends on your definition of profession. Will degreed caregivers earn more? Perhaps, but not necessarily in EMS.
Degrees and high GPAs aren’t guarantees of success in our industry or anywhere else; they’re evidence of knowledge. Sometimes that knowledge can be useful in EMS, because what we learn about problem-solving and communication in classrooms is largely relevant to delivering emergent care. And having a smart partner gives us one less thing to worry about.
To our Facebook correspondent, I’d suggest letting degreed EMTs use their knowledge instead of holding it against them. Maybe they’ll solve a few problems you can’t.
Mike Rubin is a paramedic in Nashville and a member of EMS World’s editorial advisory board. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.