Have you ever had a TV show about your job? If you're a lawyer - or a forensic scientist in Florida -- the answer is yes. But most of us don't know what it's like to see what you do each and every day on primetime television. As a paramedic, I do. The NBC show "Trauma" is about emergency medical workers in San Francisco. But aside from the city name, it gets nearly everything else wrong.
Paramedics and EMTs have watched the show in anger and disbelief, as it portrays them as unprofessional, self-centered, and regularly performing the wrong procedures. Making out in an ambulance. Texting while with a patient. A medic uncapping a needle with his mouth. And landing a helicopter in a city -- really? These are just a few examples. And while NBC says "it's just television" and "people know the difference," subtle messages become perceptions. And we just can't afford those misunderstandings, especially for those interested in this career.
Emergency workers are critically important in health care, and we will not have enough of them. By 2020, the Bay Area will need more than twice as many paramedics and EMTs as we have now, and other areas of the country already have shortages. A show like "Trauma" does not help.
We already have applicants who are attracted to the adrenaline factor, and there is some of that. But there is a lot more to our work. This is a people-caring business. If you don't have the drive to help people and do quality work, you won't last. And you won't last if you're in it for the money -- we're not paid that much. But we do tremendous things every day. Compassionate things. Life-changing things. And we're some of the most professional people you'll ever meet, in any field.
It makes watching "Trauma" all the more upsetting. For a line of work that is full of drama and compelling personal stories, it's instead focused on sensational, misleading portrayals. The show's producers should spend a day with our paramedics. They'd learn something about what it's really like. And so would their viewers.