Stressful jobs: The job of a paramedic — run into chaos

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By Nancy Kennedy

LECANTO — As a paramedic, your day is never routine. 

You can’t schedule an emergency. You have to be ready at the drop of a hat to go.

A call comes in, the adrenalin is released and you’re off to provide potentially life-saving assistance. 

“The stresses that we have are probably not what people think,” said Ron Bray, critical care paramedic at Nature Coast EMS. “It’s not that we get immune to seeing people injured, but you develop a tolerance so you can get the job done.”

He added that people in his field either discover they’re not suited for the job and get out in less than two years or they stay in for a long time. He’s been a paramedic for 30 years.

“One of the most stressful things is driving to and from an accident scene or call,” he said. “Just because we have lights and sirens doesn’t mean people get out of the way — it’s especially stressful when you’re trying to get to a ‘child not breathing’ call.”

Other stressors include long hours (24 on/48 off), plus the physical aspect of lifting, bending, sometimes contorting your body. 

“If you’re running a bunch of calls, you might get your lunch at a Jiffy store, and that’s not the healthiest,” he said.

There’s also the stress on the body from frequent adrenalin rushes, plus the unknown of what to expect when you get to the scene.

“A big stressor for us — the things that happen to kids,” he said, “and, of course, we see what drugs are doing to our community.”

Bray said to be a paramedic, a person should be a Type A personality, strong and assertive.

“You need to be a people person,” he said. “We don’t carry guns, so we have to be an ‘Andy Taylor’ and be able to talk to people, calm them down. We could have a call, a person with chest pains, who was in the middle of a drug deal.”

There’s often a deputy on the scene, he said, but not always. 

“Also, we have to put our personal feelings aside and provide care for anybody, including the guy who just beat up his wife and got bit by a sheriff’s dog after a chase,” he said.

Bray said he uses his days off to relieve stress and recharge himself. He works out, runs, dives and kayaks.

“It’s a cool profession, and I can’t imagine doing anything different,” he said. “We go into a chaotic situation, calm it down, provide good medicine and take the person to the hospital. The number one stressor for most of us: we don’t want to fail the patient. That’s why we are always training and working on being prepared.”

Contact Chronicle reporter Nancy Kennedy at 352-564-2927 or nkennedy@chronicleonline.com.