5 Questions Every Paramedic is Asked

Adults Ask Even More than Kids

paramedics drinking coffee
Paramedics like to talk, but there are questions they know they'll be asked. Jochen Sand/Getty Images

Standing in line at the grocery store or while ordering lunch, paramedics, and emergency medical technicians create plenty of curiosity. Kids stare at us. Their grandparents think we are security guards and ask us where to find the frozen fish.

Some people just have an overwhelming desire to ask us about our jobs. Each EMT or paramedic can feel the air thicken as a question is about to be asked. We welcome some of those questions but dread many others.

Are You an Ambulance Driver?

ambulance crew responding
EMT's and paramedics do a lot more than drive. Pat LaCroix/Getty Images

If you see an ambulance rolling down the street, there's no arguing that someone is driving it (we don't yet have ambulances that drive themselves). However, it's a good bet the person driving that ambulance would take umbrage at being called an ambulance driver.

With few exceptions around the country, ambulance drivers are capable of much more than just driving the rig. Indeed, these are highly trained paramedics and emergency medical technicians who happen to drive an ambulance as part of the care they provide. Many of them bristle when their training and caregiving seem to be reduced to nothing more than a medical taxi.

See where the term ambulance driver came from.

What's the Worst Call You've Ever Had?

paramedics taking patient to helicopter
There are plenty of things that make a paramedic pucker up. Anthony Boccaccio/Getty Images

This is the most hated question of all for most paramedics and emergency medical technicians. In most cases, we don't really know how to answer it. Most people who ask this question aren't really prepared for a true answer. The atrocities we see throughout our careers are hard to put into words and harder yet to articulate to someone who doesn't have a basic understanding of what we expect to see when we walk through the door of a home on an emergency call. The worst calls we've seen are unthinkable to the lay public.

Worse yet, to make the story palatable to our own psyches, we are likely to recount it in a humorous way. There's nothing more off-putting to most people than a poorly placed joke while depicting the scene of a horrific train versus pedestrian.

In most cases, I suspect the question would better be phrased, "What's the best call you've ever had?" You see, what the general public considers bad is often thought of as good by an emergency responder. We train for the ​worst case scenario, and being able to put thousands of hours of training to the test in the heat of the moment is our chance to shine. So if it's a PG13 story of heroic proportions you would like your 11-year-old to hear from the paramedic at the health fair, ask her which call she is most proud of.

What's the Difference Between an EMT and a Paramedic?

Not everybody has the same patch.

There's better than a 50% chance someone will notice that my patch is different than my partner's patch. Inevitably, they will ask us to define the difference between an EMT and a paramedic. Either that or they'll ask, "Which one of you is the driver?" (see the first question)

Have You Ever Seen a Dead Person?

cardiac arrest in the rain
Sometimes the paramedic knows the patient's dead before the patient does. Bruce Ayres/Getty Images

This is the followup question to the worst call we've ever had, especially if we don't really answer the worst call question. The truth is it only takes a paramedic working in a relatively urban setting about a week to see his or her first dead body. It's the nature of the job we do. When someone dies, someone else calls 911. The paramedics have to be sent in case there's something we can do about it, which brings me to the last question on the list...

Have You Ever Brought Anyone Back From the Dead?

Can you bring them back from the dead?. Gary Ombler/Getty Images

Yep, a few times. Of course, in order for us to bring folks back from the dead, they can't be too dead to start with.

The general public often doesn't realize that between here and dearly departed, there's departing. And, depending on how far down that path one has gone, it might be possible to reverse the process.

When it works, it's wonderful and would be one of those great PG13 stories of heroic achievements you might hear when you ask a paramedic to tell you his proudest moment. Unfortunately, the person you get back from the dead isn't always the same person who left in the first place.

In those cases, it may still be a sad story. Please excuse the jokes.