The life of a Paramedic

Day in the Life of a Connecticut Paramedic

Paramedics and EMTs work around the clock to ensure the safety of the public. They are the first responders who always do their best to ensure the safety of the general public, and, at times, risk their lives to save others. Among the brave-enough to work in this profession is Sam Kellogg.

Sam is a paramedic in the state of Connecticut. A typical shift for her is 12-24-hours, working at least 36 hours a week. As a paramedic, Sam is an ALS (advanced life support) provider. Because of this, she mainly works on ALS stocked ambulances. An Ambulance being ALS stocked means that they require a Paramedic to be staffed 24/7 because of the equipment on board. Ambulances can either be stocked for either BLS based care (basic life support) or ALS based care (Advanced Life Support). The difference is the equipment that the crew is trained to use.

EMT’s in the state of Connecticut are BLS. Meaning, they cannot put in an IV/IO (intravenous/Intraosseous) line, cannot perform a 12-lead EKG, and they cannot give medications except for Aspirin. Paramedics can do all those skills, among many others. This is where ALS stocked ambulances come in. ALS ambulances are stocked with medications of various uses that medics are extensively trained on when to administer, intubation kits, IV/IO kits, and a cardiac monitor which is used to perform a 12-lead EKG, which, can detect abnormal heart rhythms.

It is now 6 am. Sam’s shift starts off by checking the “rig”, which is what EMS personnel call an ambulance. They call this beginning-of-shift check of the ambulance a “rig check.” Sam will be working with an EMT partner. During the “rig check”, Sam checks all the ALS supplies that she’s trained to use (IV/IO kits, intubation supplies, medications, IV solutions, etc.) and her EMT partner checks the BLS supplies that they are trained to use (backboard, cervical collars, blood pressure cuffs, etc.) Just as important as the supplies, it's important to inspect the emergency lights, the sirens, and the outer appearance of the ambulance to ensure that there is no damage, no leaks, no dents, etc.

In Sam’s eyes, the partner she works with, makes all the difference on how a shift goes. “Working with a great partner always makes your shift and day go by faster and makes responding to more difficult calls a lot easier,” she says. “Partners can confide in each other and because they respond to the same incidents, they know what it was like and what each one of them experienced.” Which she says can be helpful on stressful calls.

It is now 7 am. Once the rig check is done, the day can go one of two ways. Either the waiting game begins, or calls roll in one after another. Today, it is slow. On these days, Sam and her partner could be waiting hours for a call. In fact, the number of calls a crew gets can be drastically different every day and varies depending on what area she's working in. “In a typical day, I probably do 3 - 4 calls. Sometimes I don't do any, sometimes I do 10 or more. Just depends on the day.” Sam explains. While they wait, Sam talks about what crews do in their downtime. “Throughout the day, crews are pretty much allowed to do whatever they’d like to do while they wait for calls to come in.” Some do online schooling, some brush up on their knowledge by reading textbooks and online case studies, and others prefer to chill and watch TV.

For many calls that Sam responds to, ambulance crews work with and rely on all sorts of other teams to get their jobs done. “We work closely with the fire departments in town and the police department on calls,” says Sam, “And we respond to a wide range of calls anywhere from motor vehicle accidents, structure fires, [people having] difficulty breathing, chest pains, overdoses, you name it. We always have to be ready to go 24/7.” There is a wide range of calls that Emergency crews get dispatched to. In fact, emergency crews never know what kind of calls they could be called to. It could range anywhere from someone slipping on ice and spraining their ankle, to car crashes with multiple patients involved.

A lot of the time during calls, the patient is not in immediate danger, and the crew knows this. However, there are sometimes when there are very critical patients who need immediate care and may even need to be transported via helicopter to a hospital. The person who makes this call on a scene is the paramedic. They must determine the severity of the patient’s case and must make a choice quickly and under immense pressure regarding the interventions that they are going to perform to try and save a patient’s life. Which makes EMS a very stressful career.

Some calls stick with emergency providers throughout their careers. Nobody is immune to it. Sam recalls a call she went on a few years back that stuck with her. “There are certain calls that stick with you throughout your career,” Sam says. “Like when I had a bad car accident on route 8 a few years ago where the patient ended up 100 feet down an embankment in the snow.” Paramedics are the provider on-scene who makes the choice of whether a patient survives or not. On any scene, they must quickly and efficiently evaluate their options and determine the best course of action for their patient that will be best for their survival.

Regardless of the not-so-great calls that Sam responds to while on duty, she still loves her job. “I honestly think that I have one of the greatest jobs out there,” she tells. “The feeling I get when I drop a very sick patient off at the hospital and know that I helped them, or having the family shake my hand for helping their elderly mother out, or even just listening to someone who is over the top stressed out and just wants to vent to the hospital, I know that I made a difference in their lives and I couldn't be more proud to serve the community that I do.”