Category Archives: Essay Contest

EMS Newbie Essay Contest: First Place

As we’ve said many times, Kelly and I were not judging the essays. We had a team of judges score each of the 51 essays to produce the finalists. Those final 10 essays were then scored by our judges. The finalist judges team was, Dr. Bryan Bledsoe, Lou Jordan of Emergency Training Associates, and Nancy Perry of EMSWorld magazine and expo.

They each scored the 11 finalists and….

we had a three way tie for first.

It was that close. So Kelly and I ended up scoring the three essays that tied.

Third place was Jennifer A. Martin’s Accepting Social Media’s Positive Influence.

Second place was Daniel Gackowski’s Blogging in EMS: Knowledge for Everyone, From Everywhere.

And first place goes to Mary Kate Kelly.

Social Media and an EMS Newbie: A Whacker’s Love Story

Whacker. Green. Sparky. However you say it, I am the textbook “probie”. My pager is always on, even when I’m not on duty. I struggle to maintain a nonchalant expression when we are toned out to even the most mundane calls. I grovel when someone grants me the “privilege” of doing a truck check. I have a year’s experience as a First Responder, and a freshly minted EMT-B license. And like anyone new to the profession, I can’t get enough of EMS.

It all began in the summer of 2010, at the start of my First Responder class—and it remains even today. When I’m not at the station, I’m reading books written by weathered medics. I’m catching up on the latest EMS blogs. I’m downloading the latest episode of Confessions Of An EMS Newbie. Initially, all of this exposure was simply an attempt to feed my insatiable hunger for all things EMS. Now, I’m starting to realize it’s resulting in a bigger, positive impact on my career.

There are so many ways in which social media has helped me in my profession; everything from studying YouTube videos of a passing practical station, to expanding my brotherhood to include EMT’s throughout the country. But I am choosing to write about the strongest way social media has affected me: how it helped spark and maintain my adoration for emergency medicine.

EMS social media has allowed me to fall in love with the entire profession. It’s not all brilliant and daring rescues. It’s not all snatching people back from death’s grasp. It’s not all racing at top speed, lights flashing and sirens blaring. It’s not all suavely flipping sodium bicarbonate caps a la John Gauge. Before I started going on calls regularly, blogs revealed the truth about the field. It’s more about compassion; willingness to help your fellow man. It’s more hand holding than chest compressions.

Despite all of the rewarding experiences in the field, there remains a darker side of EMS that, prior to blogging, was seldom discussed or explored: burn out. The binding protocols that discourage thinking, and the constant system abuse in a thankless job can wear a person down. While being allowed into a patient’s most trying times can be humbling, it also allows for a troubling and heart wrenching view of the injustices and pain in society. It can tear at the soul. I would have remained ignorant of this side of EMS, had I not been exposed to the accounts and warnings posted in blogs, podcasts, books, and the like.

The field isn’t for everyone. But social media has prepared me for what to expect. I was able to develop a passion for emergency medicine, and not just for its glamour. I fell in love with the entire field: the adrenaline, compassion, struggle, and brotherhood. Beyond the war stories and shared tricks (another beneficial aspect of social media in our profession), there was the raw, naked truth of EMS; the good and the bad, the glorified and the shameful, the exhilarating and the dull, the triumphant and the heartbreaking.

So, call me what you will; whatever your local tongue dictates. Yes, I’m addicted to everything EMS. Yes, I will continue to regularly check my favorite blogs. Yes, I will still stay up at night, downloading podcasts. It’s making my education a more complete, worldly collage, and my adoration a deeper, stronger affection. So, label me as Sparky. Green. Whacker. I’ll wear my newbie label with pride.

EMS Newbie Essay Contest: Second Place

Our second place essayist is Daniel Gackowski:

Blogging in EMS: Knowledge for Everyone, From Everywhere


Social media has brought a nation of independent EMS services and given them and their providers the opportunity to share and learn from each other in a way that was never before practical or possible.

As a new EMT in a rural volunteer fire department, I didn’t even realize what I didn’t know about the EMS community as a whole. I knew what I learned in EMT school and what I picked up responding to calls. However, after attending a national EMS conference and realizing the popularity and impact of podcasts and blogs, I realized there was a much larger picture than I had imagined previously.

I returned from that conference not really knowing what else was out there in the online world of EMS, but just that it was there somewhere. Soon, I was regularly following multiple EMS blogs and an EMS online forum. I realized that these inter-connected communities had far more information and experience to share than I could ever possibly get by remaining isolated in the traditional fire department and hospital service area that exists in the immediate vicinity around me.

Unrestrained by geographical limits, the world of social media can present theories, discussions, arguments, conflicts, and relevant issues in a way that would never be possible otherwise. While there’s no one that knows this small community like the hard-working and experienced members of the fire department where I have the good fortune to help, there is simply no good way to find out what’s happening in the world of EMS on a macroscopic scale while limited in the context of a small-town community volunteer fire department.

EMS-related blogs can show me what the topics of interest are in every area of the United States, whether urban, rural, or in between. I can use the subjects that professionals with years more experience than I have as stepping-off points to further my own EMS education. Things I wouldn’t have even known to study are presented in ways that I can read and then research on my own, with the unique personalities of each individual blogger interjected within. Additionally, I am able to be introduced to more advanced concepts that I might have never heard about otherwise. While attending the occasional higher-level continuing education lecture or overhearing medics work, I can pick up on ideas and vocabulary that would otherwise completely pass me by — all because someone I’ve never met happened to discuss it one day on his or her blog.

While social media certainly has its occasional downfalls when not used judiciously, it has provided a substantial outlet for EMS professionals to talk about their days and share their experiences. Online forums provide a way for people to anonymously release stress, and receive words of encouragement and support from someone they may never know personally, but that has been in the exact same position before in his or her own career. It opens up a vast library of potential for furthering one’s own education and knowledge base that never existed in such an accessible way previously. It could also prove to be the means of accumulating wide bodies of experience and input from innumerable people toward furthering the EMS profession as a whole.

Whether someone is an EMT student or has already served a career as a paramedic, the use of social media can have a significantly positive influence on the individual care provider, as well as the world of EMS in its entirety.

Congratulations, Daniel, on a fine essay, and we hope to see you at EMS World Expo!

Check back on Monday to read the winning essay!

EMS Newbie Essay Contest: And We Have A Winner!

The judging was extremely close, with the spread between first and third place being a mere  five points, but the three-way tie is now broken, and we can announce the winners!

Each winner has already been contacted individually, so now we can reveal them to you. In no particular order, the eleven finalists are:

Katie Boudreaux

Wm. Matthew Brittain

Kimberly Spuhler

Jennifer A. Martin

MacKenzie Kelsey

Jessica Cates

Daniel Gackowski

Tracey K. Adams

Chris Lampi

Bridgette S. Walker

Mary Kate Kelly

Our third place essay is by Jennifer A. Martin:


Accepting Social Media’s Positive Influence

Social media is a positive influence; with it comes an opportunity to receive the wisdom, support, and guidance necessary from those around me. It is said as EMT’s we never stop learning, what better way than to have access to a seemingly infinite EMT text book. Facebook, twitter etc. act like a makeshift EMT text book, one that is frequently altered by an immense amount of people with personal experience, commendable knowledge, and renowned facts.

Social media allows me to connect with teachers, classmates, friends, family, and co-workers, all at the push of a button or tap of a touch screen. People with the potential and competence to not only make me a better EMT but a better person as well. From the small things like classmates and co-workers blogging on how they deal with the stress and loss that sometimes come with the job, to face booking about up-coming study groups, meetings and events that will make school and work a little bit easier. Pod casting lectures and conferences, giving me the opportunity to learn a little bit more about what was offered when attending is out of the question. Even to tweeting about how much they love their job and what I have to look forward to when I start making a difference.

With those around me, having chosen to endure the same tests, make the same deadlines and still enjoy it as much as I do, makes me realize I am in the right profession. Social media will not only allow others to help me, but also allow me to help others in the process. The daily updates and even hourly posts from people I trust and look up to, posts on how they get through the day dealing with what we sometimes see and feel and what they have done to feel better. And on those days when things get tough and quitting seems to be the easier way out, I know I can turn to face book for a study buddy or blog about how to cope with the stress from that day. Teaching each other through posts, blogs and the conversations we carry out day to day, and tears we share are not always for bad reasons. Helping each other grasp that the good will always outweigh the bad no matter how rough it may get by the end of the day. Social media allows us to see the joy we all experience even if we cannot be by each other physically when we may need it most. When I do really well on a test or make a great save, and telling everyone at once seems impossible. Certain I can still share my happiness and success through social media with everyone who have helped me in my journey, no matter where they might reside in this copious world on that day is a vast feeling.

Without the constant connection, support, and help I get out of social media from those who I trust most around me, I would find it harder to hack the EMS profession, I would struggle to handle what I go through and my studies would suffer. Everything in life will influence me, allowing it to be good or bad is actually my choice. It is how I accept it, break it down, and truly let it work in my favor rather than against me, does it then become a positive influence on me.

Congratulations to all our finalists, and to Jennifer Martin on her 3rd place essay!

Tune in Friday to read our 2nd place essay…