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Murray Journal

What’s it like being a Murray paramedic?

May 30, 2022 04:44PM ● By Shaun Delliskave

By Shaun Delliskave | [email protected] 

Do you have what it takes to be a paramedic? During EMS Week, May 15-21, the Murray Fire Department invited the public to learn more about the facts and myths about their EMS crews. Allegedly, the expectation for a paramedic is that if you show up early, you’re on time. If you show up on time, you’re late. And if you show up late, you’re fired.

“This is not completely accurate; we greatly value punctuality in the fire service,” Murray City paramedic Kevin Davis said. “Typically, we show up to the station 10-15 minutes early and get changed into our duty uniforms for the day, then make our way to the day room to greet the off-going crew.”

Shift change at Murray City Fire begins at 7 a.m. and occurs every other day. Crews are scheduled for 48 hours on-duty and 96 hours off-duty, meaning the department runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“Our schedule is prone to being interrupted often by 9-1-1 calls which when this does happen, we drop whatever we are doing, or get out of bed at night, and race to the rigs to go to the emergency,” Davis said.

At Murray FD, employees are all cross-trained in medical (EMT or Paramedic) and fire certifications, allowing all personnel to respond to any 9-1-1 emergency. Their staffing/response model is that two EMS crew members will occupy the ambulance, and three to four will occupy the fire apparatus (truck or engine). Both units will usually respond together on the call.

“The job is not all blood and broken bones,” Davis said. “Traumatic injuries only make up a small portion of 9-1-1 calls.”

Paramedics undergo schooling that consists of 1,200 to 1,800 hours, including EMT-Basic as a prerequisite.

“The job can be intimidating not knowing what to expect when a call comes in, but what we do know is that the public expects perfection on each call. For this reason, we place a high emphasis on maintaining skills and continuing education,” Davis said.

Paramedics respond to various situations, from heart attacks to allergic reactions to behavioral incidents.

“The most difficult part of the job is being exposed to scenes that most never have to be exposed to,” Davis said.

Not only are demands placed on EMS crews physically and intellectually draining, but they exert a lot of mental stress. Murray FD offers its EMS members mental health resources, but sometimes coworkers can provide the most significant helping hand.

“In my situation, I live about an hour south of Murray; surprisingly, I have noticed that this commute is a good time to transition roles from work mode to husband/father mode. Another great coping mechanism is the second family that we form with one another at the fire station. With the tribalistic nature of the fire service and the trust we share with each other, we can endure difficult things together and have open discussions about the events to help destress and acknowledge emotions that are tied to an emergency call,” Davis said.

According to Davis, seeing the outcome of saving a life still outweighs the stresses of the job.

“The hospitals we typically transport to have a great system in place for us. By working with a liaison at any facility, we can get a follow-up on clients we have taken care of to see what the prognosis and outcome were,” Davis said.

EMS crews can then assess how they did and make improvements as needed. Davis has a few suggestions if someone thinks they want to be a paramedic.

“The best route, in my opinion, is to find your local department and ask them if they allow a ride along to the general public. This gives you the opportunity to be with a crew for a day and see how the station life is, how the crew interacts together, and to be exposed to some of the emergencies we respond on. This step, to me, is vital and can help an individual decide quickly if this field is for them or not,” Davis said. “If after the day you still have interest, then obtaining your EMT-Responder or Basic is the next step.”