I sat down with a lot of folks, turned on my recorder and had some amazing conversations. One of them is a fellow FRN affiliate blogger, Scott Kier. He and I have collaborated on a few projects and I hope to continue to do so in the future.
Scott writes EMS In the New Decade and it’s another worthy read. He addresses misconceptions about the EMS industry and speaks with experience and candor on a lot of issues that are bouncing around our profession.
I managed to drag him away from his million commitments at EMS Today and steal 30 minutes of his time.
When did you start your blog?
I started blogging about 3 years ago: February of 2010.
Why did you start it?
I always had an affinity for writing. I worked for American Medical Response at the time and they flew me out to the west coast to do some training. I got an inside look at the EMS system in the city of Oakland, California.: jumping from ambulance to ambulance, riding with crews. I got talking to them about a movie I had seen online called "Level Zero." I started asking the guys what they thought about it and one guy said, "Well, if you like ‘Level Zero,’ you’re going to want to check out ‘Chronicles of EMS‘ that’s coming out."
So I started following the community and reading the Happy Medic and a lot of those blogs. Like I said, I always had an affinity for writing so I decided to start sharing my opinion again. I had tried blogging years ago but it just never really took off. So I said, "What the hell. Let’s do it."
What has changed over the 3 years you’ve had this blog?
I guess I’ve evolved as a provider as a result of reading a lot of blogs and also writing one. A lot of what I write is geared towards either systemic issues, national issues or, from the provider standpoint, being a better provider of care, which I feel is different from being a clinician. It means dealing with the person you are taking care of rather than the medical condition you are taking care of. That has swung my priorities in my patient care as well. I’ve started to have a "practice what I preach" kind of attitude. While I’ve always had a strong bedside manner, I try to set a good example for the other people that I work with.
How does reading and writing blogs feed into that?
Some if it is sharing on joint issues but really what it is is a global reflection on me, from what I read and what I write. I don’t write for an audience. I write for myself. If people choose to read it and they enjoy what they read then that’s awesome.
How does it feel to have an audience?
There is certainly a narcissistic quality to blogging and I don’t think there’s anybody who does blog where that doesn’t exist.
Not for me. Certainly not for me. Not at all. (laughter)
I am flattered to have an audience. It’s humbling for me to have an audience and it’s a reminder to me that what we say and what we do and how we project ourselves on every level in this community and in this field has an impact on somebody. Whether you’re in the street, whether you writing something online, whether you’re posting something to Twitter or Facebook, it’s a constant reminder to me that we need to uphold our own values to promote our field and move the community in a forward direction.
What role does your blog play in your work as a paramedic?
I don’t look at myself as a much of a clinical blogger. It does have some impact into my bedside manner but the stuff that I do away from the field, whether it be being involved in conferences, being involved in advocacy through NAEMT and promoting those kind of agendas, that’s where the blog really takes shape and is part of my career.
How does it do that?
It’s a soapbox. Gives me the means to share the agendas I feel are important to me as a paramedic. It’s more geared towards global things such taking EMS from being a job, that most people perceive it as, and moving to being a sustainable career. Advocacy for change.
And public education as well. Just last week I wrote a response to an article. They talked about response times and response times and response times. And the government talks about response times and response times and response times and they hit that stopwatch and as long as it’s under that magic ten minutes, or eight minutes and fifty nine seconds, or whatever they say it is, they say, "Ok!" (Dusts off hands) " We have a good EMS system!"
I took some of the facts that they put in the article and addressed them. For example, not only was the company named in the article compliant with their 911 contract, they were almost three percent over compliance.
So they were doing really well?
Uh-huh. 97.5% compliance on a 95% contract with 30,000 to 40,000 calls per year. That’s not bad at all. And they were making an issue with 350 calls that they found out of 35,000 calls last year. Yeah, one percent. I took issue with those facts. They were buried in the story when I felt those facts should have been highlighted in the story.
I felt that the real, true story here should have been, "Well, you know, it might take the ambulance nine minutes to get there or it might take twelve minutes to get there but here’s why you want a paramedic walking up to your door."
What perspective do you think you are providing with your blog?
I feel I’m providing a perspective that many people in the industry and many services are afraid to show because they are terrified of HIPAA for no reason. I feel that, as an industry, we are very, very poor at public relations and promoting ourselves and, more importantly, proactive public relations. When you see leadership from any ambulance service talking to the media, it’s in response to something. That service should be reaching out consistently to the newspapers, the television stations and the rest of the media and saying, "Hey! You know what? We got this brand new ambulance. State of the art safety vehicle and we want you to come in and film and we’ll give you a tour of it and show you why our patients will be safer riding in it."
So, you think that the public information officer (PIO) should be more "busy."
Exactly. Or even exist! Too many ambulance services don’t even have a PIO or reach out to the media. If they did, then when issues are reported to them, such as the article I discussed, then the first thing the reporter would do is call up and say, "Hey, you know what? We’ve been in your service a bunch of times. We’ve talked to you a bunch of times. We’ve got these claims, here. Tell us what you think of them." You build the relationship with the media before instead of being reactive.
We are blaming the media for their own ignorance but the they’re ignorant because we’re not telling them the whole story.
What other social medial tools do you use?
My primary one is Twitter. I have a Facebook page for my blog. My personal one (Facbook page) is my personal one. Of course I "like" my blog Facebook page from my personal one because I want one more "like." (laughter)
There’s already a lot of discussion on how the industry as a whole should or should not be using social media. How does social media fit into your personal paramedic practice, you, Scott the Paramedic?
I use it as a resource. I’ve been a paramedic for twelve years. Back when I was in paramedic school, I hauled around this huge Mosby textbook. There was no social media, no Internet or, at least not accessible to me. But now there are so many resources out there that you can tap into and the gateway to them is often social media. The other thing is just a generalized promotion of the field. Have you heard of a Twitter hashtag called #MyEMSDay ?
Hah! You’ll see it on my twitter feed all the time, along with #MyEMSNight . Didn’t you start that?
I started that and it’s taken off! For the most part, people have been good at using them. They post about the bad runs but they also post the good ones. "Just caught a ROSC (return of spontaneous circulation)" or "Just got a save." So you’re getting that positive stuff in there too. It creates some affirmation and positive perspective on our work.
Why did you become a paramedic?
It’s what I wanted to do since I was 15 years old, from the first time I got on an ambulance.
What got you on an ambulance when you were 15?
Both my mom and dad were EMTs. I’d sit around and watch them go out. My mom rode days, which were very busy, and when I got a little older I said, "You know. I want to try it." I tried it and I really enjoyed it.
We had intercept ‘medics out of the hospitals who told me, "You are going to want to get a degree. Don’t just go to the community college and get your certificate, get a bachelor’s degree." So I went and spent 4 years at Springfield College, got my paramedic certification, my BS in emergency management and a minor in business management, graduated and walked right into a full-time job in a very busy EMS agency.
What keeps you on the ambulance now, 12 years later?
Well, I just got back on the ambulance. I was a supervisor for 7 years and I just got back in the field.
And how do you like it?
I was a supervisor at a private ambulance company. The problem I had was toeing that fine line between effective patient care and profitability of the company. I now work for a prominent municipal service. It has a static staffing structure and is the most patient-care-driven service I’ve ever been a part of. It feels great! I’m perfectly fine with having to step back on the road. It took a little while to get my feet back under me and I still am, in a lot of ways, but it feels really, really good to be taking care of people again.
Do you think you’ll move into management again?
I think so. My employer invests a lot into their people, from what I’ve seen so, I feel I can invest a lot of myself in return.
You’ve said a lot of great things about your employer. Will you talk about them in your blog?
My employer knows I have a blog I prefer to use my blog for personal reasons. When I come to these things (EMS Today), I come on my own two feet. You see on my badge, it says, "Writer/editor, EMS in the New Decade" not "Paramedic for such-and-such agency."
Right! Mine doesn’t even have my real name!
The people here who know me here, know me as, "Oh. That guy I heard on EMS Garage." or, "That blogger who wrote that really crappy piece that pissed me off" (laughs). You know what I mean? That’s how they know me. They don’t know me as a street medic. I try to keep a division between my employer and my blog.
Would you name your employer in your blog?
No. Not yet.
That’s called a, "career-saving move," son! (laughter)
Exactly! I stress on my blog that my viewpoints are my own and do not reflect the views of my employer. I make that abundantly clear
Anything else you want to tell my readers about you, Scott Kier, the blogger.
The main reason above everything else, that I write is for myself. It’s like cheap therapy.
At first, I was not on Facebook with my blog. I didn’t share anything on Facebook about my blog. There were a few very close colleagues who knew about it but, for the most part, I kept it very quiet for probably the first year and a half. Then, one day, I just decided to make a Facebook page, promote it, put it out there and let the people that saw me every single day start reading it. The feedback I got from those people was remarkable.
People were coming in from shifts and saying, "Hey, I saw what you wrote a few nights ago." and identifying with it, relating to it, asking questions about it. It sparked interest. I was able to use my blog as a springboard to generate conversations about the fields, about why we need to be better providers.
Does working with people who read your blog force you to "walk the walk?"
Absolutely. Practice what you preach, man. Gotta do it.
Scott, thank you very much for taking the time to talk to me today.
Stay tuned for more great conversations with bloggers, paramedics, EMS Chiefs and other folks who continue to elevate our profession.