*Edited to finish post, after accidentally posting*
We all have different experiences. Much of the exposure/experience you may receive, will vary greatly, depending on your locale. This is my experience only, offer is void where prohibited, no warranty is implied or expressed, always follow your local protocols, and local, state, and federal laws where applicable. I receive no compensation for any product recommendation, The opinions expressed herein are my own and may not represent or reflect the position of any company/department of which I am currently or previously affiliated, results not typical, etc.
On my 16th birthday, I was working my summer job at a roadside fruit stand and bakery. We had just say down to enjoy birthday cake, between tourist buses, when a Chrysler Concord rolled up in front of the shop. It parked perpendicular to the way the stripes were, and started honking his horn. I remember joking "What does this guy want, drive up service?" I put on my best customer service smile and opened the door. In the drivers seat sat a 300ish pound, 60's year old guy. He was flushed and sweaty. He gasped "I need help" I called 911 and EMS was dispatched. He said "I think I am having a heart attack." This was back when the Bayer aspirin commercials had just started, so we dug out the first aid kit and gave him two adult aspirin. The ambulance barn was 8.5 miles away, with volunteer staffing, so what was likely 15 minute response that felt like an hour. I felt totally and completely helpless and wanted to help this poor guy, but didn't know what more I could do. One of the owners of the fruit stand was a captain of the local fire department, which also is a Ambulance service. He suggested that since I was now 16, I should become a Jr. Firefighter. Never wanting to feel that helpless again, I agreed.
That Thursday night was my first fire drill. I remember searching through the station attic and finding my first set of turnouts and trainee helmet, They were 20+ years old when they were issued to me. I also found a pair of nomex coveralls and leather gloves, wildland fire helmet and belt for fire shelter. We ordered a pair of wildfire boots, which were the only equipment I received that wasn't "hand me downs." This was a very small department, where only the officers had radios, and a few had Motorola voice pagers. The rest of us found out we had a call, by the 2 minute air raid sirens blaring and responding to the station. We had a mini academy to get myself and one other recruit to a functional level. This opportunity gave me exposure to public service, and I loved every minute of it.
I had spent nearly every Saturday from November-March at a local ski hill, since I was in 1st grade. One of my friend's dad had been on the volunteer ski patrol for ages and talked me into joining as a Jr Patrol Candidate. The "Outdoor Emergency Care Technician" course by AAOS was based on the EMT course and met the DOT requirements. This gave me a foot in the door to expand my medical knowledge base and allowed me to network with other healthcare professionals.
The ski hill medical program director, was an ER physician and fellow patrolman, graciously offered to allow me to shadow him in ER. Through ny high school, I was able to secure a "school to work" internship at the ER, and was able to collect both school "elective" credits, and could rack up community service hours for my Senior project. I had completed all of the required classes at the school, and simply needed credit hours to graduate.
A few weeks into this, I realized the really interesting cases were coming in via the ALS ambulance service, so I approached the company and the school to see about ambulance ridealongs. The fall and winter of my senior year were spent M-F 8-5 on the Ambulance, and a mixture of weekends at the ski hill or the ER. During this time a First Responder (now called Emergency Medical Responder) class became available, so I took that class, as I hadn't graduated school yet so was ineligible for EMT.
I logged over 1,000 community service hours between the internships, ski patrol and fire department, and qualified for and won the Presidential Freedom Scholarship for Volunteering. These experiences gave me a laser focused plan on what direction I wanted to go after graduation.
I took my official EMT class that fall of 2004. Since that time I have worked or interned in many styles of EMS Systems: Fire based transport, Fire based first response, Private for profit, Private non-profit, Industrial non-transport at an underground Zinc mine, BLS event standby, BLS non-emergent transfer, ALS rendezvous, and even some time doing wheelchair van/Cabulance. I have been in and out of the industry a couple times, but have been active this time since 2009 when I began a degree track Paramedic school, and am currently a Paramedic Battalion Chief for a rural Fire department that transports 50+ minutes to critical access hospitals and 90 minutes to a Level II Trauma center.
I was a total nerd in high school, and didn't really fit in. I found a camaraderie and friends in Fire/EMS that I didn't have with school. That being said, the others are absolutely right, you only get to do high school once. You have your whole life to enjoy a career of your choosing.
Lastly, academically, push your self in the sciences, a functional understanding of Biology, Chemistry, Psychology, Communication and English Composition are tools you will use everyday as a Paramedic.