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10 Brutal Truths That Will Make You Better EMS

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These truths are harsh.

Hard to hear.

Hard to follow.

Hard to do.

But that’s also the beauty of truth.

Ask any successful flight nurse, flight medic or EMS pilot how they succeeded, and they’ll tell you they had to face plenty of harsh truths on their path to success.

This article isn’t meant to scare you. It’s meant to empower you. It’s about giving you a reality check you can use. Once you embrace it, you’ll see for yourself the power of these EMS truths and how you can use them to empower your own EMS career.

10 Brutal Truths That Will Make You Better EMS

1.) You Define Your Worth

Everyone I coach has an opinion about EMS pay. Most people share their opinions freely and openly state EMS professionals are underpaid. Eventually, I almost always get asked the question.

What’s my opinion about EMS pay?

Here’s how I answer:

My opinion about EMS pay doesn’t matter any more than any other person’s opinion. Conversations about “what’s a life worth?” and why EMS professionals don’t rate higher pay are meaningless in regard to your value and self-worth. Why?

Because you decide your worth. Most EMSers, from EMTs to trauma doctors, don’t give themselves enough credit.

Start defining your own worth today. You decide what you’re worth, nobody else.

2.) Everyone Has An Agenda

Everyone has his or her own best interests at heart.

You can have the best EMS manager on the planet, one who genuinely cares about you and your career, and I guarantee you they still care about themselves more than you. It’s how were wired as humans.

The point is to see situations for what they really are. Even the most honest employer may not be aware that they’re working you into the ground if you just keep accepting more work.

Most people are going to take as much from you as you let them get away with – which means it’s up to you to define and uphold your own boundaries.

It’s okay to say no. And sometimes it’s required to keep you and your patients safe.

3.) Negative Thinking Brings Negative Results

The problem with negative thoughts is that it leads to negative outcomes.

It might feel good in the short-term to vent, but when our brains are focused on pity, fear or anger, there’s no room left for the thoughts that will lead you to success. It’s really that simple.

How do you fix it?

It’s kind of like the old doctor joke about “my arm hurts when I put it above my head like this, doctor.” And the doctor says “don’t do that.”

The solution is to stop thinking negatively. It can be done and it is a learned skill. You need to be proactive. You need to consciously force negative thoughts out of your head and replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts.

4.) You Become The Company You Keep

Your parents probably told you some version of “you’re only as good as the people you surround yourself with.” And guess what? Your parents were right.

Don’t let toxic people turn you toxic. Don’t wait until a toxic person in your life has brought you so far down that you forget how to get back up. Here are 10 signs your EMS base is toxic and a quick fix for toxic EMs bases. You need to surround yourself with people who inspire you, encourage you and help you realize your potential.

EMS and air medical are full of great people. Go find them.

5.) Success Is Hard

The media loves to tell success stories. The problem with today’s media is they feel no obligation to tell the truth, omit outright lies or serve anyone but themselves.

This “new media” perspective leads to some pretty skewed stories. What you’ll almost never hear from the media is that success is hard work. Damn hard work.

Why won’t the media tell you the truth about success?

Because media knows from experience it’s not what people want to hear. People want to hear the same fairy-tales they tell themselves. Someday they’ll magically become rich and famous and live the life of their dreams. All good, except it’s complete bullsh*t.

Success in EMS, air medical and anything else worthwhile is hard work.

6.) Perfect Is An Illusion

I hate to be the one to break this news to you, but there’s no such thing as perfect. And chasing perfect is a waste of time.

The sooner you realize and accept this, the more successful you will be in EMS and in your personal life.

Don’t get me wrong. Is there room for improvement, and should you always deliver your best and final work? Of course. Absolutely.

But you also need to realize that done beats “perfect” in almost all cases. Focus on execution and results, not perfection.

7.) You Will Never Please Everyone

If you actually listened to what every single person wants from you, and then sincerely tried to fulfill each and every request, you would go bat crazy.

The truth is, it’s impossible to please everybody — and it’s a really bad idea to try. Why?

Because if you spend all your time trying to make others happy, you’ll never define yourself. You’ll never figure out what makes you happy. It’s completely okay to not please everyone. In fact, it’s recommended.

One of the ways I gauge the success of EMS Flight Safety Network is what I call “hater volume.” How much hate mail did I get this week? I’m not kidding.

Most of my blog articles are provocative and direct. That’s how I write and that’s who I am. I have no desire to write EMS candy-cane and gumdrop articles that try to please everyone. Reality is you can get the candy-coated version anywhere. But that’s not who I am, and more importantly, it’s not something my readers would appreciate.

Stop trying to please everyone and start thinking about how to best please yourself.

8.) Excuses Get You Nowhere

You can spend your entire life complaining you don’t have the time, money, energy or resources to accomplish the things you actually want. And you may be right.

All of what you claim may be true – but the harsh truth is, every single person on the planet has at least one damn good excuse for not pursuing the life they want.

The difference between the people who get what they want out of life and those who don’t is that the people who get what they want ignore their excuses. They find a way around their limitations, instead of just bitching about them, and that is the very reason why they succeed.

9.) Your Actions Define You, Not Your Thoughts

You can think about a flight nurse, flight medic or EMS pilot job from now until eternity, and until you take action, you’ll never land a job.

You have to take the actions required to become a flight medic or become a flight nurse if you want to fly.

Sounds like a no-brainer, right?

But you’d be surprised how many people think about flying or upgrading to a critical care ground truck, but never actually take the actions required to make it happen.

Good intention is a wonderful thing but unless it’s coupled with action, it counts for nothing. At the end of the day, your character is determined by what you do, not by what you think about.

10.) Nobody Is Coming To Save You

This one seems particularly unfair for EMS and air medical.

But the truth is — nobody is coming to save you from your life.

We all want to believe the fairy-tale of the person of our dreams, job opportunity of a lifetime or life-changing surprise we never expected is just around the corner.

When we’re unhappy with our lives, we irrationally hope that a drastic change in circumstance will magically manifest and save us from our own lives.

But the brutal truth is, life doesn’t work that way. Nobody’s coming on a white horse and if you want to see change in your life, you have to create it.

That’s the “secret” the most successful people know. When times get tough, the strongest people come to their own rescue. Because they know that if anyone is going to save their day, it’s going to have to be them.

Some Good News for EMS and Air Medical

If you made it this far, you can make it the rest of the way. Take a hard look at the truths in this article. Ask yourself the hard questions. Are you really doing everything you can to reach your goals? Or are you just telling yourself a story about doing everything you can?

Only you know the truth. And only you can make the changes needed to reach your goals.

Listen to the audio version here:


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Troy Shaffer
Troy Shaffer

About the Author: Troy is an Air Medical Career Expert passionate about a team approach to improving air medical safety from the ground up. Troy is a former Army medic, Army pilot, Coast Guard pilot and EMS pilot. Troy has taught hundreds of wannabe flight medics, flight nurses and EMS pilots the exact steps needed to launch air medical careers.

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