Why I’m not thanking a Paramedic

According to my social media streams, yesterday was “Thank a Paramedic Day”. This seems to have been taken up with enthusiasm by various members of the public who have been telling their stories of being treated by paramedics, or more interestingly, just being treated kindly.  As a paramedic, this all feels quite nice in a way – a recognition of the work we do and how society values it.  But I have some misgivings.

It seems forced. I’m sure there are nothing but good intentions involved, but if I’m to be thanked I’d much rather it be a spontaneous thing in response to a specific thing that I’ve done.  I’m not sure that gratefulness-by-category is all that meaningful.

Sometimes a job is just a job.  I’m often told by non-medical people that they couldn’t do my job.  That may be true, but let’s be honest, I probably couldn’t do their job.  Fair’s fair.  I chose this job and I choose to remain doing it.  It wasn’t forced on me. My work benefits other people, but so do lots of occupations – just usually less conspicuously.

This is not America. A culture seems to have evolved in the USA since the 9/11 attacks where uniformed military personnel are reflexively “thanked for their service”.  Soldiers of my acquaintance have told me a number of times that this has become a kind of social nicety, an obligation, rather than a meaningful act of thanks. It’s lost some of its meaning by becoming encouraged.

I’m not a hero. Heroes go above and beyond in a dramatic way.  I am paid for what I do and the requirements of my job are outlined quite clearly.  Turning up to the “office” in the morning isn’t exactly heroism in my mind.  Friends of mine have started noticing that their takeaway coffees have been having messages written on them like “free coffee for heroes”. We’re not heroes, we’re just people doing a job. Accepting that coffee now feels awkward because of the message. I’m often given free coffee because of my uniform, so my response is to tip the barista the price of the beverage.

The job itself is usually reward enough. People may not believe this, but this is an intensely rewarding job. We all have our bad days, but most of the time the job is hugely satisfying. Adding compulsory adulation on to the top isn’t icing on the cake – it’s almost patronising in a strange way.

Please don’t take this to mean that I don’t appreciate the gestures of individual, heartfelt thanks that I receive in the course of my duties.  They mean the world to me and I am intensely grateful. I am enormously proud of the work that I do. But making this a cultural requirement takes something away from it.  Thank me, but do it in person for something I did for you. That’s when it means something.


This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Why I’m not thanking a Paramedic

  1. @Cannulator says:

    I do what I do because I know its good.
    When I started I was part of a group of 7 from around 1500+ applicants. We were teminded of that achievement.

    Whilst the size of the undergraduate enrolment and post graduate employment pool has diluted achievement and made this more like just a job, I am special, and it does take acertain type of person to really ‘become’ a paramedic and not just ‘be’ one.

    No one really cares about me until they need me; in person thanks is just a behaviour, a formality; it means little from most.

    Notwithstanding this, I recieved thanks from those that did care and none from those that didn’t. What’s new?

    I think we’re nothing like the contrived reverence that is seen in many uniformed service pages. We aren’t angels, we just what others won’t.

    However, a day that might get people thinking about the work of paramedics ( just like international nurses day if we had such unity) is ok.

  2. lilly says:

    i personally love and respect the paramedics every time i call they have been great and kind and professional even when my 82 year old dad got sick i thank the Paramedics from the my whole heart

  3. Twinky says:

    I just want to say thanks for your service. Jumping out of planes all the time must get stressful! I couldn’t do your job.

    • Adders says:

      You must be thinking about the paramilitary, soldiers who jump out of planes. This post is about not thanking ghosts!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s