Nervous about operating an ambulance

Kaleb Griffin

Forum Crew Member
So, once I finish my course and everything and begin to volunteer, I know I will need to be driving the ambulance. The driving part doesn't necessarily bother me, just the fact that I am not good with directions. I live out in the country and do not know the local life squad areas too well. I wouldn't want to put a pt's life in jeopardy due to my lack of inexperience with directions. Even with GPS, what if there is a crash on the high way that doesn't have a set address? Idk, maybe I'm just being to nervous. Has anyone ever felt like this just starting out their EMT careers?


Mostly Ignorant
I've felt the same regarding directions at some point. When I started driving, figuring out the maze turned out to be pretty fun. It's not a big deal if you take your learning in your own hands.

Take a free afternoon or two to drive around the streets on your own. It will be worth it.
Find a decent map of the town/county.
Learn your highway ramps and which exits they are near.

So many others have moved to other towns and systems in their careers. They seem to get by well enough with GPS directions and knowing the main arteries.

If you want a really fast way to learn, go eat out every opportunity you have. (don't actually)
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Forum Lieutenant
Also, when all else fails, call dispatch, they should be able to direct you to the patients location.


Forum Probie
I agree with flying. It takes some dedication but once you learn streets and land marks you will be fine. The better you know the city the more fun you will have vs being worried or anxious. Good luck!


Forum Lieutenant
As long as you don't crash the ambulance you'll be fine. You'll learn the high call volume areas quickly. The rest will come I due time. Your medic will pretty much be your navigator to calls.


Forum Captain
You aren't alone. To me, this was by far the most stressful thing about working in EMS (especially for the years before I had a GPS). Getting from the scene to the hospital is the hardest, since your alone and can't read a map. I can navigate very well with a map, but on my own in the driver seat I am really pretty terrible at navigating, for whatever reason.The advice above is good, just a couple extra tidbits:

You're right that GPS is falliable. Sometimes the routes are crazy, and sometimes it takes you through areas known to be heavy with traffic or stoplights, despite an easier route.

For sure dedicate some personal time (I spent a couple of Sunday afternoons doing this) to drive around your response area. Don't drive aimlessly - first make sure you know the main arteries, then areas with relatively high call volume (nursing homes, schools, community places, rough neighborhoods, whatever your community happens to have). Your goal is to ensure that if you can get from a scene to a main artery you will know where you are and how to get to the hospital from there. When you drive around, stop periodically and make sure you can generate one or preferably two routes from your location to the hospital, without consulting technology or a map. Double check, ideally with a real paper map. Practice the route to the hospital a few times, make sure you know the turns, etc.

I also did this as mental practice every time there was a call I wasn't going on (or a fire call, police call, whatever) - I'd google the location, try to run the route through my brain, then go from scene to hospital.

I was still only mediocre, but putting in that effort helped me relax and focus on more important things - driving safely and patient care mainly.

part B: Don't freak out if you get lost. You may feel like it's not acceptable, and you should try hard to avoid it, but I promise many of us have gotten lost. Now that GPS exists you should be able to sort of make headway in the correct direction, but if it fails: ask your partner in the back, admit it and pull over to consult a map, or worst case call dispatch.

Some housing developments in particular are simply indecipherable when looking for a scene, even with a navigator helping. It's embarrassing when the backup ambulance makes it to the code before you, but it happens, and panic and rushing only get you more lost. I speak from experience.....


Forum Asst. Chief
I, too, am navigationally challenged.

Take some of your free time and spend it driving around and familiarizing yourself with the "main" streets and intersections.

I feel like this is a lost art, but sometimes GPS doesn't work/isn't accurate. Once you get it down, you will be able to find any address in under 30 seconds. It's pretty fool-proof.