Let's Digress

How to Spot a New EMT

Due to a recent change in the economy or society or some vague something or other, there has been a large influx of new EMTs. In this article, we’ll discuss how to spot them in a crowd of other EMS providers.

In EMT class, we’re all taught how to “fake it until we make it” and how to ooze confidence about performing skills we haven’t quite mastered yet. Some of the new EMTs blend in with their surroundings and coworkers quite well, but if you know what to look for, they’ll stand out more than a muppet on the set of Sesame Street. Below is a short list of a few baby EMT traits.

They usually have uncontrollable and fast-changing facial expressions.

During EMT class, they talk about something called the “stone face.” Basically, it’s a stoic or emotionless face one puts on during a time when other facial expressions may be deemed inappropriate. The stone face isn’t something one learns over night; it takes significant practice.

Baby EMTs generally don’t have the stone face mastered. Actually, a lot of seasoned EMS personnel don’t quite have it mastered. However, new EMTs have an obvious look of innocence (sometimes called “confusion”) that goes along with it.

The facial expressions of a new EMT change quickly, everything from horror to amusement to confusion to despair to inappropriate smiling, all within the span of a New York minute.

Off-kilter communication.

The new EMT generally doesn’t know that much. In actuality, both EMT and paramedic classes are bare minimum courses. EMT class really only covers enough knowledge to make the hopeful prehospital healthcare provider dangerous. EMS, as a whole, is a job where the brunt of the learning is done after classes are over and actual work on the ambulance or hospital begins.

So, when the new EMT is talking to people, especially other EMS personnel, their conversation can tend to be a little off-kilter. Example: They’ll be talking about chest compressions and they’ll have the gist of it, but their description of how CPR is supposed to be performed won’t be completely correct. Their conversation accuracy will be slightly askew.

Disclaimer: Askew and partially incorrect conversation and ideas about procedures is expected. The problems arise when the baby EMT, 1) Doesn’t know that they’re askew with their thinking, or 2) When they’re confronted about being wrong, but refuse to heed the advice of more seasoned cohorts.

Rough stretcher movement and lifting.

The new EMT will be about as smooth as bottom-shelf vodka with their lifting skills. Fluidity with patient movement and stretcher lifting is a skill acquired after a significant amount of time lifting and moving stretchers and people of all sizes.

Movement is a very technique-based operation, and the average new EMT just won’t have that technique by the time they finish class.

The new EMT will be shaky, rocky and will most likely drop a few people before getting good at it. What’s that saying the kids use nowadays? “You’re not doing your job right if you don’t drop at least one patient.” Is that it? Don’t worry though; a well-crafted narrative can make dropping a patient less detrimental. But it would still probably be wiser to have them practice lifting before letting them and an unlikely partner take on the 400-pound dialysis patient.

They have more gadgets than Batman’s utility belt.

Of all the new EMT giveaways listed, this one is usually the most accurate. Typically, the number of items on an EMS provider’s belt is inversely proportional to their experience level. Stated another way, more stuff on the belt means less experience. [Disclaimer: The accuracy of this rule is significantly less for EMS personnel who work for private/transfer ambulance services. Sometimes the transfer peeps just get too excited with their accessories and feel the need to display them all.]

The new EMT will most likely have some combination of the following items on their belt:

  • No less than 3 pens
  • 1 Sharpie marker
  • A penlight
  • Trauma shears
  • A flashlight
  • A Leatherman—or Leatherman equivalent—multitool
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Glove pouch
  • Backup pair of trauma shears
  • Pocket knife
  • Trauma shear holster
  • Keys on a brightly-colored carabineer
  • Clichéd EMS-themed keychain
  • Cell phone holder, either next to the belt buckle or on the back of the hip

The new EMT will also have a higher tendency to walk around everywhere with a stethoscope around their neck. They’ll walk into Chick-Fil-A, the gas station, random other restaurants, Grandma’s house, their bank, and even into the local Starbucks wearing it around their neck without batting an eye. Actually, they’ll probably touch it excessively, like when a 2-year-old boy walks around diaperless or something.

The walk.

The new EMT will also have a unique walk about them. There are numerous theories behind the origin of this universal walk of new EMTs, but the following two are the most scientific.

The first theory is that the new EMT’s aren’t used to wearing combat boots yet, so they walk a little funny while getting used to them. It’s true; the new footwear does take some getting used to, especially if they buy the $30 boots and not the higher quality $90 ones. Boots tend to make people walk more upright, they’re heavier, and have ankle support that the normal shoe just doesn’t have.

The second theory is that the new EMT has basically reverted to a high school boy while in the company of a new girlfriend. Ever watch a high school boy walk with a new girlfriend? They strut. The hypothesis is that mentally, the new job “saving lives” has triggered a part of their brain that provokes them to puff out their chest, pull their shoulders back, tilt their head into a “sniffing position,” and walk with heavier footsteps to create the illusion of walking with purpose.

The interesting thing about this second theory is that it’s not exclusive to men; the new EMT females do it just as much, if not more.

This is by no means a full and comprehensive list of new EMT traits. If there are any other traits I missed, please, post a comment about it.

Judge wisely.

Good luck finding those muppets.

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