Volunteer Paramedic?

dixie_flatline

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I realize this is a pretty subjective thing and everyone's circumstances are different, but I thought I'd get a sampling of the folks on this board. Is anyone out there a volunteer paramedic?

I thoroughly enjoy EMS, but I have no intention of making any kind of career out of it - I have a good job in computer/network security, and that's where I plan on staying for the foreseeable future. I do EMS because I was (am) an Eagle Scout and I've always liked giving back to my community. Generally speaking, if I start doing or learning something, I take it as far as I can. I always feel like there is more that I could learn to help out, but realistically speaking we are so close to hospitals here that I doubt running as ALS would allow me to save significantly more pts than a Basic could (based on the number and types of calls we get - obviously there are plenty of cases where ALS is critical, we just don't see them that much).

Does it really make sense for a volunteer to put in the time to become a medic? Since I work 50-55 hours a week and am out of town on work for a week at a time roughly bi-monthly, it can be hard to balance a courseload and actually find time to precept. Plus, I'm considering going to Hopkins for a Masters (but the paramedic education would be free... Hopkins is like the opposite of free).

Anyways, just wondered if there were any volunteer paramedics lurking around (especially ones that aren't looking for employment as a medic), and everyone's general thoughts on the issue.
 

rescue99

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I realize this is a pretty subjective thing and everyone's circumstances are different, but I thought I'd get a sampling of the folks on this board. Is anyone out there a volunteer paramedic?

I thoroughly enjoy EMS, but I have no intention of making any kind of career out of it - I have a good job in computer/network security, and that's where I plan on staying for the foreseeable future. I do EMS because I was (am) an Eagle Scout and I've always liked giving back to my community. Generally speaking, if I start doing or learning something, I take it as far as I can. I always feel like there is more that I could learn to help out, but realistically speaking we are so close to hospitals here that I doubt running as ALS would allow me to save significantly more pts than a Basic could (based on the number and types of calls we get - obviously there are plenty of cases where ALS is critical, we just don't see them that much).

Does it really make sense for a volunteer to put in the time to become a medic? Since I work 50-55 hours a week and am out of town on work for a week at a time roughly bi-monthly, it can be hard to balance a courseload and actually find time to precept. Plus, I'm considering going to Hopkins for a Masters (but the paramedic education would be free... Hopkins is like the opposite of free).

Anyways, just wondered if there were any volunteer paramedics lurking around (especially ones that aren't looking for employment as a medic), and everyone's general thoughts on the issue.

How people go about giving of themselves is a subjective thing, you're right. Wanting to take it as far as a Medic education is pretty dedicated...Good for you! Masters, Medic; you and only you can decide which will bring more satisfaction to your life.
 

NomadicMedic

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I think it depends on where you are in the country. Here in Western Washington, anyone who brings up the idea of a volunteer medic is looked at like a two headed monster, but back on the East Coast, where I'm from, there are plenty of volunteer paramedics, as well as intermediates and basics. The amount of time one would have to commit as a volunteer to go through medic school is prohibitive in most cases, but there are many like the OP who have good jobs and want to simply give back to the community.

I have a friend in West Virginia who has been a volunteer paramedic for almost 10 years. She has a job where she can telecommute and make her own hours. It's the perfect situation. She's able to respond almost anytime she's needed, the small town she lives in has ALS service, she feels good when she gives back to her community and she still makes a decent living and can provide for her family.

Do I think volunteer ALS is a good idea? If it's the ONLY way a small community can provide paramedic service, then yes. Otherwise, I believe medics should be singularly focused on the profession and compensated fairly.
 
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dixie_flatline

dixie_flatline

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I think it depends on where you are in the country. Here in Western Washington, anyone who brings up the idea of a volunteer medic is looked at like a two headed monster, but back on the East Coast, where I'm from, there are plenty of volunteer paramedics, as well as intermediates and basics. The amount of time one would have to commit as a volunteer to go through medic school is prohibitive in most cases, but there are many like the OP who have good jobs and want to simply give back to the community.

I have a friend in West Virginia who has been a volunteer paramedic for almost 10 years. She has a job where she can telecommute and make her own hours. It's the perfect situation. She's able to respond almost anytime she's needed, the small town she lives in has ALS service, she feels good when she gives back to her community and she still makes a decent living and can provide for her family.

Do I think volunteer ALS is a good idea? If it's the ONLY way a small community can provide paramedic service, then yes. Otherwise, I believe medics should be singularly focused on the profession and compensated fairly.

I'm in Howard County MD, and I know of at least a handful of volly medics, but most (if not all) of them are looking to translate that into a career as a paid FF/P or go to nursing/medical school. I'm one of the few (that I know of) that has expressed an interest in medic training that doesn't want to use it as any kind of career advancement.

At this point, I am leaning toward your opinion, thinking that the community and the providers are both generally better off with paid medics. Considering that if I manage to get 8-12 hours a week in riding, it's a 'heavy' week for me, I don't think that's enough time on the box to keep my hypothetical-ALS skills as sharp as they should be. I work enough calls where we establish an IV, but I don't remember the last time I saw somebody get tubed prehospital.
 

NomadicMedic

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Then maybe moving to the AEMT level (or whatever MD is calling Intermediates) might be a good next step for you.

I think that 6 to 8 hours a week isn't enough to keep your skills and critical thinking abilities, as they relate to patient care, sharp.

I applaud your willingness to take it as far as you can, but medic school is a huge commitment, as not one that I would take on if I were only planning to volunteer.

Also, for what its worth, my friend in WV was a career medic in a busy system before a career change. She realized she missed EMS and now volunteers, but she started with the idea of working in the profession.
 

EMS49393

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I volunteer in Maryland as a paramedic. I was a career paramedic but I've taken a break to work on my own business. I may have to go back to it part-time if my business doesn't take off before I run out of money, but in the event that I do not return to being a paid paramedic, I still have my volunteering to maintain my license and I get to donate time when I can with the only stipulation being a 20 hour a month requirement.

I'm also working full-time on another degree. So between my business (which is much more than a 40 hour week) and college, a full-time paramedic gig is pretty much out of the question.

I see no problem volunteering as a paramedic. I do take considerably more continuing education simply because I do not have the call volume paid paramedics do.
 

mgr22

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I think volunteering at any level of EMS certification is inherently good. I also believe volunteers should be held to the same standards as paid providers.
 

nakenyon

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I think volunteering at any level of EMS certification is inherently good. I also believe volunteers should be held to the same standards as paid providers.

Being part of a completely volunteer BLS organization, I completely agree. The level care provided by volunteers need to be the same as paid.
 
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dixie_flatline

dixie_flatline

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Being part of a completely volunteer BLS organization, I completely agree. The level care provided by volunteers need to be the same as paid.

In our county it definitely is - our station has at least 6 full-time paid career staff there 24/7, and us volunteers ride the same equipment. We have 2 ALS ambulances, that we switch back and forth - for 40 days or so the career guys will have 15 in service 24/7, then the next 40 they'll have 16 in service 24/7, with us volunteers using the one that is "out of service" when we come in.
 

abckidsmom

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I started as a volunteer when I was in high school, became an intermediate as soon as I turned 18, and took paramedic class after I graduated from college. I volunteered pretty much full time during those years, my husband was working in our county and I rode with him.

I went on to work 5 years in the city nearby, and then started having babies. I've worked part time or volunteered since 2004, and I freely admit that I feel rusty at times. I currently volunteer only, but that's about to change again.

All that said, I don't believe it's possible to gain the necessary critical thinking skills and practical hands-on experience if you're spending less than 20-24 hours a week on the ambulance in a reasonably busy system.

That's AFTER class is over.

IMO, it's a question only you can answer. I don't know any medics who currently and always has run one shift a week and can realistically compare with someone who does a great job doing EMS for a living.
 

46Young

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My time as both a medic student and as a full time NYC medic has left me with a certain amount of disdain towards other EMS systems. We were only dispatched true ALS job types, with legitimately sick pts, and the call volume was high, so the learning curve was steep. You weren't considered experienced until at least your first refresher at three years. I then worked for a 100% "one and one" ALS county third service, and now a fire based system with a combination of dual medic and one/one. In both systems, those units were dispatched to everything. You may not see a pt in true distress but once or twice a week on average (56 hour workweek) if you're lucky. Your day is filled with sick jobs, injuries, or the *yawn* Vitals, O2, Monitor. IV, Txp.

I feel sorry for the student that maybe gets the chance to make a real definitive Dx and give meds or other interventions only a handful of times a month. I would get 2-4 good jobs on a 8 hour rotation most days. If you're planning to do the medic course anywhere but an inner city environment, then I feel that you're at a disadvantage in gaining the necessary experience and acute pt contacts to be a truly competent and proficient medic. And that's full time. Having said that, if you can ride at a combo paid/vollie house and ride third on a medic unit, you can gain that experience with the career medic until you're comfortable riding lead on your own bus. Good luck, regardless.
 

ParaPrincess904

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I am both a paid and volunteer paramedic. I would say that if you only want to be a volunteer, go for the intermediate level of training. I was an EMT-Critical Care (mostly equivalent to an NREMT I-99) as a volunteer before advancing to paramedic. Had I not been doing it as a career, I don't know if I would have done it.
 
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dixie_flatline

dixie_flatline

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All - thanks a lot for the genuine input. I was a little nervous to post, expecting at least a little volly-stigma from the crowd. After a number of you more or less confirmed my fears about not having enough time to really grow into a competent medic on my schedule, I will consider EMT-I.

I'm not 100% sure how it works in my jurisdiction in MD, or if it is changing as we transition to the new standards, so I'll have to look into it more and see if it is worth it. My preliminary investigations show that MD recognizes EMT-I/99 certs, which can basically function as medics with the exception of
-Nasotracheal intubation
-Administration of Haldol
-Amount of medications that need online Medical Direction

I'll have to consult my EMS Captain and see what his thoughts are, and if Howard County has any special quirks I should be aware of (we just hired our own full-time EMS medical director, only county in Maryland to have it's own full-time doc).
 
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dixie_flatline

dixie_flatline

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My EMS Sergeant (who is currently enrolled in medic school) says that almost all programs in MD have stopped offering any Intermediate training. He says that MD is planning to phase out any type of EMT-I/CRT/AEMT levels and only recognize B's and P's. Poo.
 

rescue99

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My EMS Sergeant (who is currently enrolled in medic school) says that almost all programs in MD have stopped offering any Intermediate training. He says that MD is planning to phase out any type of EMT-I/CRT/AEMT levels and only recognize B's and P's. Poo.

Ah, but did he say the B would be what we currently call our EMTI-85? Just wondered. Some states already have the EMT-IV.
 

DogPoundMedic

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I worked on a volunteer FD outside of Cleveland Ohio for 8 years about 5 of them as a medic. Towards the end of my time there I had 3 jobs, It was tough but the FD was my favorite. We had several people who had 3+ jobs and they made it around. Depending on the structure of the department depends on participation, it was pretty easy to maintain your job there. Not to mention the many benefits, friends for life, you will get to know the local PD and get more face time with them, I have now moved accrost the country and still talk to them on an at least montly basis. I say YES do it. Its the most rewarding thing you can do for your community( just not rewarding very much for your wallet) Hope this helps
 

22cent

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For what it's worth, I volunteered for awhile after I became a paramedic. My situation was looking grim for getting hired on where I was living but I quickly realized how important it was to get out there and keep running calls. I didn't have anything lucrative going on as far as another career but I look back now and can appreciate all the free training I got and the ability to selectively go on critical calls. Fortunately my status as a volunteer in good standing landed me the full time job I wanted and the perspective really helped me understand the insane world of a combined fire department. I think you will benefit immensely from the experience of being an ALS provider but make sure you are being fair to your next patient and dedicate more time to being competent with it.
 

FireResuce48

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My EMS Sergeant (who is currently enrolled in medic school) says that almost all programs in MD have stopped offering any Intermediate training. He says that MD is planning to phase out any type of EMT-I/CRT/AEMT levels and only recognize B's and P's. Poo.

I've heard the opposite. I have heard that Maryland will continue to recognize EMT-I 99 or as MD calls it CRT. If they were to only recognize B's and P's there would be an uproar from a lot of jurisdictions as many will only train their providers to the I-99 level.
 

22cent

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I can appreciate what you are saying about experience. I was pretty much fed to the wolves in a combined department after having gotten used to working at a career department. Very different animal.
 

PotashRLS

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I think volunteering at any level of EMS certification is inherently good. I also believe volunteers should be held to the same standards as paid providers.


I read this a lot on this forum. Do some states have different licensure standards for volunteer vs. career? In Wisconsin, our licensure and continuing education/refresher/medical direction is the same regardless of your "employment status". Volunteer EMT-B/IT/I 99 squads are exactly the same as the career departments that employ the same EMT levels. Physician Medical Directors routinely manage combinations of volunteer and career departments. However, paramedics here are primarily career due to the extensive education. Many do volunteer some free time on the small squads that they started their EMS careers at. They can only practice at the EMT level that the department is licensed for.

I think you are a truly committed person to consider being a volunteer medic. The biggest hangup I personally would have is that a few years down the road will the large amount of continuing education and recerts drain your free time and money? To work that hard for licensure and then have to give it up later due to time conflicts from your evolving life would be a shame. Good luck in what ever you choose Dixie.
 
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