After September 11 needing to add meaning to his life, Andy Joseph changed careers from working in television at ESPN to becoming an EMT (Emergency Medical Technician). Andy took all his energy and now channels it in assisting others. He is a great example of searching and finding purpose in a job
CCB: When did you realize you wanted to be an EMT? Seeing as you started your career track in television working at ESPN as a production assistant.
AJ: It took some time to realize what I wanted to do, but September 11 really got me started on planning for my new career. I wasn’t happy at ESPN. I wanted to feel like I had touched someone’s life. I felt like all I was doing was lining the already cash filled pockets of overpaid athletes. I always had an interest in emergency medicine, probably because I spent so much time in the ER as a kid with sports injuries. So I started planning my new career path and when the time was right I quit ESPN and moved home.
CCB: What gave you the courage to so dramatically change careers?
AJ: I think the dramatic turn in careers was a lifestyle choice. I needed a job that made me happy and got me excited about going to work every day. Sure, EMS (Emergency Medical Services) have their problems and drawbacks, but for me the benefits outweigh the negatives. My dad really gave me the courage to change careers. He and my mom supported me around every turn and understood why I was making the change. This was very important for me because without my families’ support I probably wouldn’t have gotten through school with a good state of mind.
CCB: Have you been able to use any of the skills you learned at Syracuse University on the job?
AJ: I learned a lot of time management skills, personal interaction, and how to carry myself professionally. No education is ever wasted. The study habits I learned carried me through my EMT-basic program and are now helping me succeed in my EMT-paramedic program.
CCB: Perhaps there is no typical day as an EMT, but are there certain ways you prepare yourself for this very high stress environment?
AJ: There really isn’t a typical day in EMS. That’s what I love most about the job. Some days are busy with emergency work, some are busy with transfers from hospital to hospital or hospital to home, and others the phone never rings. You just have to take it a day at a time and a call at a time. There is no sense in getting yourself all worked up on the way to a call because often times you’re dispatched to a call for something that sounds horrible and the patient is fine. Other times you expect a stable patient and find someone in immediate distress. I always take a couple of deep breaths on the way to the call to calm myself and remember that as long as I treat what I can see the patient will be ok.
CCB: What do you do as an EMT? What does EMT stand for?
AJ: I work for a private company outside the city. We do 911 work, Basic Life Support transfers from hospital to hospital, Advanced Life Support transfers from hospital to hospital, and stand by contracts for the Tweeter Center and Boston College athletic events. We do some work in Boston when we're contracted for an event but most of our work is Southwest of Boston and in the Worcester area.
EMT stands for Emergency Medical Technician. As an EMT you provide pre-hospital emergency care for the patient. We provide treatments based on protocols set forth by our medical director and the state to stabilize and treat a patient’s signs and symptoms and/or injuries while transporting the patient to the appropriate medical facility. There are three levels of certification, Basic, Intermediate, and Paramedic. Paramedic is the highest pre-hospital certification available.
CCB: How is an EMT different from the current training you are taking as a paramedic?
AJ: An EMT-basic differs from an EMT-paramedic in many ways. A basic provides Basic Life Support while a paramedic can provide Advanced Life Support. ALS includes intravenous drugs, cardiac drugs, advanced airway techniques such as endotracheal intubation, and advanced defribrillation techniques. A paramedic is the highest trained pre-hospital caregiver so the “buck stops here” so to speak.
CCB: Can you explain a little bit about what Basic Life Support consists of? Does that extend beyond CPR?
AJ: Basic Life Support includes CPR, basic airway management, splinting of extremities, backboarding for spinal injuries, and AED (automated external defribrillator) use.
CCB: Have you had any mentors in your career?
AJ: Both my bosses have been big motivators and mentors. Both are paramedics with one having sixteen years of experience. They are always helping me improve my skills and provide better patient care. They were both very helpful and supportive of my decision to start paramedic school.
CCB: What makes a quality EMT?
AJ: A quality EMT is someone who puts patient care first. It is very easy to do a half ass job and take short cuts. Those who care to be professional and treat each patient as if they were their own family are the best EMT’s out there.
CCB: How did you go about learning how to be an EMT?
AJ: EMT school itself is four months long. After school you take a state or national exam and if you pass you receive your certification. However school is never a substitute for experience. Every day you learn something new or improve a skill you already possess. Every day is a learning process and those who absorb these lessons tend to be very strong EMT’s.
CCB: Have any advice for people interested in becoming an EMT?
AJ: Take the opportunity to ride along with a fire department or a private company. Most companies and fire departments will allow you to ride as long as you have a current CPR card and you sign a waiver. This will give a first hand look at what the job is like and if this is something you think you can handle. Being an EMT is not for everyone and you shouldn’t feel bad if it’s not for you. It’s a tough business and you see a lot of things that are disturbing so getting a first hand look and experiencing the job before you start school is a great idea.
My recipe for finding a job you like is relatively simple. Find something you love to do. Make a list of companies that do what you want to do. Research each company finding the pros and cons of each. Go for the interviews being fully informed about each company so you can ask questions and get a feel for the company’s personality. Choose the company you feel most comfortable with. If at any point you're not happy at a company, repeat the above until you're happy with where you are. If you're not happy at work, you won't be happy in your personal life.
CCB: What did it feel like the first day on the job?
AJ: The first day was very nerve-racking. In fact, I was nervous for about two months. I had confidence I knew what I was doing, but real world and class were two completely different things. My coworkers and bosses made it very easy for me and were always there to talk about things. This made my transition to the real world much easier. Being nervous is part of the job. My personal feelings are that “being nervous means that I still care.” The day I’m not nervous about a call means that I’m probably not doing everything for my patient.
CCB: What is the most difficult part of the job? Is it the line between life and death?
AJ: The most difficult part is dealing with children. Seeing children hurt and in distress is never fun. It’s tough now and I know it’s only going to get tougher once I get married and have children. The life and death thing isn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. I know that if I do everything I can possibly do for the patient while they’re in my care, then I can walk away from the call without any regrets.
CCB: What has been the most rewarding part of the job?
AJ: The most rewarding part is when patients thank you for being there. A lot of people have no idea what we do until they actually need us. It’s always nice to come into work and find a card on the wall from a patient thanking you or another crew for a job well done. It makes you know you’re making a difference even if every patient doesn’t feel that way.
CCB: Why wouldn't some patients feel as if you were making a difference? Is it because they are embarrassed?
AJ: Some patients don't take what we do seriously because we don't have an MD after our name, some just don't want to go to the hospital, and some are just so altered mentally because of their condition they don't understand we're trying to help them.
CCB: People would be surprised to learn what about your job?
AJ: People would be surprised to know that not every EMT is a paramedic. People think that every ambulance carries paramedics. In reality, only about 20% are actually paramedic ambulances. This is mainly because the public doesn’t know what we actually do. This is a big drawback of the profession. We need to be more proactive as a profession to educate the public about what we do so the misconceptions are put to rest and the public is more confident in our skills and professionalism.
CCB: What are your career aspirations?
AJ: I want to be a paramedic who works for a municipality or a county paramedic service. I’ve also explored the possibility of being a state trooper/paramedic in the state of Maryland. There are many opportunities to be a career paramedic, but I know I don’t want to work for a private company. I want the benefits and family atmosphere that comes along with working for a fire department, county system, or state sponsored system.