Career Choices

Ed Conkel, Emergency Medical Technician

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Ed Conkel, EMT


High School Vocational Diploma
EMT Courses
Firefighting Courses

Career Description

Each day is different in this job, but all of them start by checking EVERYTHING – the drugs, all supplies, all equipment and gear. Everything needs to be stocked and in good working order, since you never know what you might need. The most common calls we get during the day are people with diabetes or seizures and, if the weather changes, asthma attacks.

After about 11:30 PM at night, you start seeing domestic violence, and stabbings, and after about 2 AM, bad car accidents. We work 24 hours on and 48 hours off. Four paramedics are assigned to a shift. Our job is to save lives and get people to the hospital for more advanced treatment.

The thing I like best about this job is the camaraderie and joking around that occurs with the other people that work at the station. We know each other well, since we spend quite a bit of time together. The worst part of the job is when small kids are involved, like shaken baby syndrome, abuse, neglect or burns that might occur from space heaters or things like that.

Another difficult situation is bad car accidents where the injured person is talking to you, but you know they probably won't live. It's tough to talk to a person who's got an entire car resting on them, blood everywhere, and you know the likelihood of them surviving is small. Often, if we get that person out alive, they will die on the way to the hospital. That is often hard to face.

One of the best aspects of this job that most people don't think about is the benefits and retirement. I can retire at 48 if I want to. Most people don't retire until they are 65 or 70 years old, so that was something that influenced my decision to pursue this career. One of my least favorite aspects of the job is when nothing is really wrong – when it's a case of people just needing transport to the hospital. I don't really want people to be sick or dying, but it is much more interesting and exciting when a call requires your brain and abilities rather than just the fact that you are driving a vehicle.

In the past ten years, my job has changed in terms of the need for computer literacy. A lot of the training that we have is now online. Many of the mini-training courses we have for specific pieces of equipment are online so you can easily refresh your memory if you haven't used that equipment in a while. When we file reports at hospitals, that is all computer based. It's important that anyone considering this job be computer literate and able to use a keyboard fairly well. I heard another EMT say that he had never cut a corpse out of a car.

Seatbelts are required now in most areas and that has saved a lot of lives in the past few years. While there are a lot of stories out there of people being injured by seat belts, the vast majority of the time seat belts save lives. I can assure you of that just from the experiences I've had trying to save people involved in bad car accidents. In the next ten years, I would imagine the trend toward more computer training and report filing will continue, as will the need for greater safety equipment. There will always be accidents and there will always be fires, so there is a great deal of job security in this position.