EMS as a Profession

A blog post on The EMS Patient Perspective about physicians specializing in emergency medical services, has piqued my interest.

In 2010, the American Board of Medical Specialties formally recognized EMS as a subspecialty – for physicians.

Officially, the specialty of EMS is a sub-specialty of Emergency Medicine. 


Mr. Sullivan make an excellent point in his blog. Why should we expect firefighters and police officers to be proficient medical practitioners? I like the selection from Dr. Eisenberg’s book, the first time I have read of a physician calling paramedics professionals that should be focused on medical skills. I believe that forcing a firefighter to be a paramedic, or forcing a paramedic to be a firefighter is flawed at best. Both professions require constant training to remain competent in their skill sets. It is very difficult to maintain proficiency in BOTH areas, resulting in mediocre performance. 

Before we can get to specialize and sub-specialize, we have to have a PROFESSION to begin with.

So what is a profession? One definition is “a calling requiring specialized knowledge and often long and intensive academic preparation.” That, we are emphatically NOT. The recognized attributes of a profession are well described here: http://www.maxwideman.com/papers/spectrum/attributes.htm

We have high-school or at best trade school education. We have no distinct body of knowledge. We resist education and entry standards. We are, as a nationwide body (in the U.S.), someplace between a hobby and a trade or vocation. Profession? I with, but I don’t think so.

I have to agree with Mr. Kirkwood. EMS is not yet a profession, but it should be, and in the future it will be a profession. A brief look at other countries (United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Germany) and you will find that Paramedicine is a profession, even by Mr. Kirkwood’s definition. 


Rogue Medic and Skip have had a few exchanges on Roguemedic.com blog regarding professional status of EMS. Rogue Medic, as always, makes a good point. 

It will not be easy.

It will not be cheap.

It will not be fast.

This is not a choose one situation.

This is a choose none, just get started, situation.

So what?

Raising children can be very frustrating, is very expensive, and will take a long time, but most of us do not let that stop us. If we only looked at the obstacles, we would have become extinct long ago.

There is no simple solution, and it will not be cheap.


Education is an issue, but first we have to change. We need to start the discussion of “What is EMS?”. EMS is public safety. EMS is public health. EMS is an important part of the health care system. Need proof? Public Safety, the traditional role of EMS, we are the emergency medical safety net for everyone. Public health, who did most public health agencies turn to when they were planning to distribute vaccinations for the H1N1 flu? Paramedics, we are already trained to administer medications, IV and IM. We are readily available, and in some communities the only providers of advanced life support for many miles. Define the role of EMS as both Public Health AND Public Safety, this is where we fit, this is where we can make a positive impact and grow as a profession. 

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About Joel

I am a paramedic, firefighter and I work for an organ procurement organization. All stories related to work have been altered to HIPPA standards and for the protection of those involved. The personal stories are different. Photography, flying, aviation, hiking, camping, travel, geocaching, amateur radio are a few of my hobbies.
This entry was posted in EMS, EMS 2.0, paramedic. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to EMS as a Profession

  1. flobach says:

    Well said, and good on you for peeking outside the box and realizing there is an international community to reach out to.

    This young profession (and I include some of the US in to that – it’s also a mindset), has got some exciting times ahead – and here is our chance to get involved!

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