EMS: It is Time We Advocate For Us!

The other day I was at an event and met up with another paramedic and had an interesting conversation. It started with the idea of how far EMS has come in terms of changes in scope, equipment and the like. I joked about a recent continuing education training session when I showed a pair of MAST trousers and was asked what in the world is that piece of equipment? For those of you that do not know what MAST trousers are, please use Google now. We did have a big chuckle.


Many times, the wrong choice of hose is a result of habit, complacency or even laziness.

The issue is that we still have a long way to go. Many of us have felt the red headed stepchild attitude from some nurses, doctors, physician assistants, and even from the general public. This is not to say these people are bad but have distorted views. We are a very important and professional profession that is needed across the United States.  We must continue to work with change and to advocate for ourselves! 

So How Do We Do It? 

Here are a few suggestions of things we should be doing as a whole profession to advocate for ourselves.

Public Education

Many different professions do public education. Public Health and the Fire Service are just a couple. Some of us consider the public education to be only beneficial for the public as we are giving them information. However, setting up at small fairs, community events, etc. does much more. 

First, they get to see you. They gain insight as to who you are and what the agency is and does. Another aspect is that they can also learn about the profession. As a firefighter, I have aided in fire safety in the fire safety month of October. During many of these events we speak about the safety aspects but also about the service itself.  We should replicate that as well in EMS. This will allow the people to know we are not just ambulance drivers. 

The bottom line is that they learn more about the people and the profession.

Public Information

Another aspect that we need to do more is public information. Public information is the process of sharing information concerning your agency with the public mainly through the media. 

When should we send out information to the media? Well, there are no set guidelines but I would recommend that if you experience one of the following that you share with the public through the media:

  • Purchasing a new ambulance or rescue vehicle
  • Increasing service provisions
  • Awards from professional agencies
  • Receiving a grant
  • An annual review of information such as annual call volume, special events, staffing levels, etc.

This will show the positive side of the profession.

Do NOT Disgrace

One aspect that we need to work on is to ensure that we do not disgrace the profession. This is an area where we all need to work on together. Here are some examples that I have seen in the recent years that we must prohibit or work to stop:

  • Wearing a departmental OR EMS based t-shirt while drinking or doing other aspects that do not shine a good light on EMS
  • One EMS agency talking horribly about another EMS agency
  • Picking on another EMS provider for mistakes
  • Going to “weekend schools” or training events and not paying attention
  • Being unwilling to learn with the changes of the profession

These are just some examples. We must realize that since we took the job we are held to a higher standard all the time, even when off duty. Consider that when you are doing things outside of the profession.

Advocate to Legislators

We must get “face time” with legislators from the local to the federal level. This is not something that everyone likes to do. However, this is a vital aspect for the profession.  We need to let these legislators know what is happening for us. This includes going to County Commissioners or City Council meetings, making trips to the Capital to discuss with State representatives, and even to Washington, D.C. to discuss this with our federal partners. 

Take this time with them to let them know what we do. What kind of services do we provide? What challenges are we seeing in being able to provide those services? Let them know about the positive things that we meet for our citizens and about us.


Our profession has come a long way since its inception. However, we are not where many of us want to be. We must advocate for ourselves in order to get better and to get others to see the positive services. Consider the topics we mentioned here. Good luck in working on this!

Until next time, be safe out there!

David Hesselmeyer, M.P.A., has been in emergency services for 16 years. Currently he is a firefighter, rescue technician, paramedic, and North Carolina Executive Emergency Manager. Hesselmeyer is the owner and primary consultant with On Target Preparedness (OTP) which contracts with emergency services agencies and non profits to assist in risk assessments, plan writing, plan revision, exercise development, etc. He currently volunteers with Buies Creek Fire Rescue and works part time with Harnett County EMS. He can be contacted at dhesselmeyer@ontargetprep.com or visit his website at www.ontargetprep.com

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