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I've been working in the field for over 10 years now, and my body is beat up. I've had multiple surgeries, not all EMS related, but they certainly don't help my situation. Most recently I had a stretcher malfunction and caught about 350lbs without being prepared. I've already had 2 back surgeries, and while I'm hoping to get back in the field I am realizing that I need a new long term plan. I don't know how you long-term guys have held up all these years.

So the problem is, I LOVE my job. I've worked 911 and seen so much and while I definitely complain at times, ultimately I can't imagine not setting foot on the ambulance ever again. 

Ive contemplated being an ER tech, but in my area(rural) the ER's use paramedics to move patients and change sheets, not exactly my ideal situation. 

Financially, I'm not going to make as much money doing anything else because I don't have any skills other than my paramedic skills. Other than I short stint at a grocery store in high school I've never done anything else. 

My neurosurgeon and I discussed that I have to decide if I love my job enough that I'm willing to give up my hobbies for my work because my back will only get worse.

Any advice or suggestions are appreciated!

 

 

 

 

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It's a tough spot to be in, for sure.  It's never fun when your body decides it no longer wants to keep up.  You've got a few options.  Several options include going back to school.

Some sort of leadership role that would require you to maintain your training yet reduce your street time may be an option.  EMS education is another option.  Is there some sort of EMS liason or ALS coordinator within your local hospital/health system?  That might be another option.

Otherwise, please seriously consider going back to school.  Yeah.  I know.  It's expensive.  Yes, you can afford to do it provided you budget carefully and take advantage of the financial tools available to help you succeed.  Nursing school is one option.  PA school is another.  (Coincidentally, PA is the route I chose.)  Even MD/DO school are options.  Any of these educational options would build on your street experience.  That same experience would serve as a foundation for additional learning. 

It sounds like if you maintain your current pace you won't have much choice but to stop working the street due to physical constraints imposed by years of what really is physically demanding work.  That you're thinking ahead is a good thing.  Don't rule anything out.

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Ok, this is what I did,  I realized that I had some back injuries that were leading me down the road to permanent disability.  bulging disks in L4 and L5 as well as some neck injuries.  Plus what some could construe as PTSD as well.  

So what did I do?  I went back to school and got my masters in project management and then went into work as a Consultant for Cerner corp putting EMR systems in huge hospital systems in the Emergency rooms.  On starting my consulting career with Cerner I got a 8K raise from EMS.  I worked for 2.5 years at Cerner and then became a travelling consultant which saw my income increase by 2.5x what it was at Cerner.  I travelled and worked at some of the top hospitals in the country, flew out monday morning and came home thursday nights.  Had weekends off to pursue my love of EMS on a one or two shift a week basis.  Or I didn't have work EMS at all because I made enough money to not have to do that.  

I finally stopped working EMS all together about 3 or so years ago, and am looking to get back into it, but I make enough money to not have to do that.  

There is no shame in saying that your full time EMS time is up and it's time to move on to other things.  I sure am not.  It was the natural progression in my career and long term goals.  In fact, I have incorporated a lot of EMS systems into the ED's (cerner system) so they have the ability to see where their patients are going in the ED or the hospital and often do not have to stop and see a nurse.  they just look at the screen as they come out of the elevator and they see the room number and they go to the room.  Easy peasy.  

If you want to discuss this career path, my phone is always on.  I guarantee it's a new adventure for you if you choose it.  And you will never have to pay for another vacation after about 8 months on the job.  More about that when we talk.  

 

Plus, I can also with nearly 97% certainty, guarantee no additional back injuries being a consultant.  

Edited by Ruffmeister Paramedic

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I got out of the field 7 years ago and although I occasionally look back over my shoulder and miss parts of my former career, I can tell you this much.. get out as soon as you can.  The back doesn't heal back and is a constant reminder of the past.  After doubling and tripling my salary in the private sector doing office work in front of a computer, I can not believe the nerve that society has to pay so little to paramedics and EMTs.  Its a young man's job, not a career.  You will develop character, but don't push it past the point of no return - don't become a salty, cranky old man, or some angel of death alcoholic. Don't spend more than 5 years in EMS, its not worth it.

Now as for alternatives to this lifestyle.. look beyond the present, and to the future.  Look into synthetic biology, machine learning, biomedical engineering, and technology management.  There is a better way to live and to exist as a human being, and most people will never be lucky enough to experience it because they are stuck on an endless capitalist treadmill, unhealthy, depressed, and steadily getting dumber.  Break through the doubt, and believe in yourself as a human being.  You can do more, and be more, you just need to try.

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The above poster brings up some excellent points.  For me EMS is a career.  I'm with a full time very large municipal fire department as a single role medic.  I am compensated very well and will hopefully collect my pension.  I know around the country EMS is paid garbage.  There should be a large work action against such bullshit.  Unionize and try to negotiate better.  Or better yet, people should boycott working these jobs for chump change.  The complaining will do nothing.  Action will change things.

 

So for the above poster who says don't spend more than 5 years I would ask where else am I going to make 6 figures and have a 24/72 schedule.  Everyone's situation is different.  If you are being paid 10 bucks an hour it's not worth 1 day.  

 

Good luck

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I actually left the field to be a paramedic jailer. Much less strenuous, without being boring.

After I got out I realized I had some issues besides the pain. I've worked 24/48's and 48/72's for the past 10 years and I was exhausted ALL the time! I didn't even realize that until I started having normal sleep habits. 

I actually took a pretty hefty pay cut, but I'm much happier for the most part. I never thought when I started that EMS would become what it did for me. I now completely understand why the old guys turned so mean, I was getting pretty close to that myself.

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Having left EMS a few years ago now and now in emergency/trauma nursing, I feel your pain sister.  I had to leave due to a genetic condition that affects my joints among other things.  It was an easy decision for me at the time but man do I miss it.  I've been considering going back to EMT school and Paramedic school once I'm done with my NP.  

The only advice I have is this.  You only have one body, you can have an unlimited number of jobs though.  There are other opportunities for paramedics who no longer want to be in the field.  Education, dispatch, community out reach coordinator, EMS coordinator at your local ER, etc.  We employ two paramedics in our department just for outreach and liaison with EMS departments.  Stand alone ER's as much as I despise them, hire paramedics a lot of the time into roles that their scope allows to augment the nursing staff.  Same with urgent care centers.  

So there are other options out there, I do encourage you to listen to your body and your doctors.  Take care of yourself so you can continue to care for others.

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