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A Tale of Three Paramedics

Submitted by on July 22, 2010 – 2:33 amNo Comment
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by Sherry Jones Mayo, RN, EMTP, DAAETS
Author of Confessions of a Trauma Junkie: My Life as a Nurse Paramedic
Contributing writer to Public Safety Degrees

John recently turned 40 and has been working as a paramedic for over 13 years. He has a wife, three kids, teaches pharmacology through Macomb County Community College’s paramedic program in Michigan, and has worked as an ER tech “forever”. Last year, John completed a nursing program, and is now working multiple contingent RN jobs in addition to his full-time position with Clinton Township Fire Department.

It was a smart move. Nursing is growing; considering the high demand for nurses (many are leaving the workforce), compensation packages, and the wide variety of nursing jobs, becoming a nurse is one of the top choices in the medical field. As much as John enjoys the challenges and rewards of being a paramedic, he also finds he loves working as a nurse.

“I went to nursing school due to my desire to move forward and be more productive with my knowledge and skills. I love being a medic, but I also enjoy both ends of the spectrum. Both positions keep me sharper in regards to the other; they are a good mixture for me.”

John chose a bridge program from paramedic to ADN through a local campus, but for his BSN, John is going to school online. Having weighed all of his options against a grueling schedule, John found the convenience of online education too perfect to pass up.

“Online courses have allowed me to continue my education. With the combination of my busy life and lack of time or ability to attend the brick and mortar (conventional) setting, my education would have been stalled.”

Andy Wiegand is another firefighter-paramedic, 31 years young, and considering nursing school. Andy was my paramedic student protégé nine years ago in a Detroit Trauma Center. I shared my best tips and secrets, and Andy’s older sister Tracy, a RN in the same ER, reinforced the value of education. Andy wants to expand his knowledge base and proficiency, but is also concerned about two things we all ponder at one point or another: more money, and better job security. The median nursing salary last year was $62, 450.

“There are budget cuts happening in the township where I work. They are laying-off nine people. I’m not one of the nine, but if they lay off more, I could be in line to be cut.”

Paul Sorrell, a paramedic for 25 years, is preparing for a medic to RN transition program. Working several years for a private ambulance company in Southfield, Michigan, Paul completed 2.5 years of a traditional nursing program 20 years ago before leaving due to professional conflict.

“The clinical coordinator was a lady who felt that men did not have a place in society as nurses, and I was getting sub-par evaluations on clinical rotations. I would do the exact same stuff as other students, the same way, and get much poorer marks.”

A man in emergency medicine does not translate exclusively to either paramedic or doctor anymore; more men these days are nurses. These changes have encouraged those who have served many years as paramedics, like Paul, to continue to do what they love in a related branch of medicine.

“I want to get into an ER and get back to some real patient care, and Online courses have allowed me to continue my education…with the combination of my busy life and lack of ability/time to attend the brick/mortar setting my education would have been stallethen complete my BE (bachelor’s in education).”

Being an educator has been part of Paul’s life for almost as many years as he has been a medic. As we spoke, Paul was conducting a paramedic refresher course. The dual-licensure of paramedic and RN opens up a world of opportunities for educators with a strong background in emergency medicine.

There is a growing trend for paramedics to expand their knowledge and level of licensure. When I completed that path 15 years ago, paramedics whispered among themselves about going to nursing school. Now more paramedics view nursing as a logical next step.

“We have had two other FF go to nursing school after me; seems as though a trend is emerging. Though the online transition from paramedic to RN can certainly present challenges, the rewards of furthering your education can only benefit you as a professional, and those you care for and serve.”

There is never a convenient time to fit school into one’s schedule. Nobody knows what tomorrow may bring, so working toward a better future, and becoming more marketable while enhancing skills and professionalism now as opposed to later, is imperative.

John’s last words to me prove my point. Ending the interview, John said, “Gotta go: CPR in progress.”

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