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Book Review: People Care

People Care reassures caregivers of our resiliency, then tells us how to put it to good use.

When I was asked to review the third edition of People CareThom Dick’s de facto guide to the art of EMS, third edition got my attention. You don’t get to write a third edition unless the first and second are pretty popular.

After reading this latest printing of Dick’s best-known work, I see why paramedics and EMTs have been coveting copies of People Care since 2005. The book includes just about everything EMS providers need to learn but won’t get taught.

To better understand why People Care is such a compelling read, consider the words perspectives and caregivers.They’re from the book’s subtitle, Perspectives & Practices for Professional Caregivers.


There isn’t much EMS literature on the soft science of perspectives. The word isn’t even listed in any of the five medical reference texts within my reach. And yet, perspectives—yours, mine, our partners’, our patients’, and their families’—affect delivery of prehospital care at least as much as any of the drugs or devices we carry.

When was the last time you did CME on perspectives? I doubt you’d get approval for such a course. That’s a shame, because people’s perspectives largely determine how they’ll react to your words, your gestures, and even your presence.

People Care confronts us with the surprising and often inconvenient reactions of fellow humans to our behavior. The book encourages us to be sparing in our judgment of strangers, have compassion for the weak, and treat others as we’d wish to be treated—a 2,000-year-old doctrine that doesn’t get emphasized often enough.


There are many synonyms for those who do what we do—clinician, practitioner, responder, and provider, to name several. The one I like best, though, is caregiver because it reminds me of our fundamental mission: not to just show up on scene and demonstrate technical proficiency, but to help one person in distress right now. It’s a deceptively complex role that takes a toll on most of us, as the author acknowledges throughout the book. Yet natural caregivers are remarkably resourceful. As Dick writes in Chapter 1, “If you’re born with the talent for it, being a medic can feel like the most reasonable, most sensible, most comfortable thing you’d ever want to do with your life.”

Inside People Care

At 160 pages of unadorned, high-impact prose, People Care is a quick and easy read, but there are several things it is not:

  • A textbook.
  • An autobiographical rendering of disillusionment followed by redemption.
  • Tales of life and death on the streets.

I have nothing against those media; they’re popular and plentiful. Thom could have rocked any of them with half his 48-year career tied behind his back, but here are some unembellished fundamentals he focused on instead:

Sleep management: 24-hour shifts are neither sensible nor defensible.

Stress: EMS isn’t therapy; it’s work.

Professional etiquette: Respect other medical professionals, the public, and most of all the elderly. They don’t get to be 90 by being stupid.

Toxic work environments: Steer clear of sloppiness, dishonesty, and gossip.

Keeping an open mind: Listen, think, and try not to judge.

Customer service: Let people define their own emergencies, then respond with kindness.

Servant leadership: Become a constant enabler of subordinates.

There’s much more, including a chapter called “String of Pearls: 50 Simple Lessons From Wise Old Medics.” That alone is worth the $14 I paid for the book.

If you’re still not sure People Care is worthwhile, consider the third of three reasons why Dick says he chose that title: “In these angry and disrespectful times, it reaffirms the notion that some people care about others.”

I find it refreshing to read about the inherent goodness of EMS. You will too. People Care reassures caregivers of our resiliency, then tells us how to put it to good use.

Mike Rubin is a paramedic in Nashville and member of EMS World’s editorial advisory board. Contact him at

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