Develop Your Professionality, A Treatment for Boredom and Burnout

Skydiving, Olympia, WA 2011. Adventure cures most any ailment.

When meeting new people one of the first questions usually asked is “What do you do?”  It’s a conversation starter.  It’s also a way to classify, characterize, and place our own private judgements on others.  This question can be particularly entertaining for EMS providers because upon disclosing our career path the follow up questions will be;

a.  “What’s the worst thing you’ve ever seen?”

b.  “Can you tell me what this might be?” as they drop their trousers and and bare their a** while pointing to an area of abnormality they want you to evaluate and diagnose.

My standard answer in regards to what I do is, “I live in Seattle, I read all kinds of books, I ride a bicycle and a motorcycle, drive a Mini Cooper, and keep my truck nearly hooked up to a recreational vehicle at all times.  I run with my dog and enjoy multi sport events to maintain fitness.  I fish in fresh and saltwater for my yummy swimmie friends, I hunt for meat to provide for my family, barter with friends for goods and services, and grow a mighty garden to reduce my dependence on commercial resources.  I celebrate the seasons with friends and framily, am admittedly a WOW geek and I work as a Paramedic.”

If I were being introduced to me, the translation of the above statement would look something like;  She’s weird, probably has webbed feet and moss growing somewhere on her body (Seattle), intelligent, educated and possibly worldly, (reading), fitness conscious (cycling), likes to take risks, is brave or totally stupid (motorcycles), environmentally aware and belongs to a strange car cult? (Mini Coopers), may be warm and friendly and doesn’t mind drool, or sweat (dogs) and likes competition (multi sport events).  Chicks rule, boys drool (hunting, fishing), and what the hell is WOW?  (World Of War craft).  Most of the time, I get a blank stare, almost like the person can’t assimilate me into their frame of thinking.  The point is, others define and categorize us by what we do as a career choice, and by who we are.  I’d prefer people know a bit of both.

I was interviewing a candidate for a Supervisor / FTO position this week and during one of his responses he was trying to describe some of his attributes he thought would benefit our team.  The candidate was speaking and meant to say professionalism but he actually said professionality.  I smiled at him as he corrected himself, and I thought what a gem of a word.  Professionality.

Professionality is a term that I believe fits the dynamic I described above, it is what we do and who we are.  It implies a relationship between our chosen career field and the other half of our lives.  For most EMS providers, EMS is not only what we do, but very much a part of who we are and has greatly contributed to why we are that way.  EMS is our professionality.

That brings me to the subject matter I wanted to blog about.  Since November of 2011, I have been standing on a precipice of career deconstruction.  I work for a private agency which is inherently predisposed to consistent and sometimes drastic changes that are fiscally influenced and driven.  The most recent changes have had a drastic effect on my career, purpose, passion, and morale.  I have worked here for 12 years, up through the ranks and have a strong sense of loyalty.  In return I feel I deserve the stability that a successful career should provide.  My core values are challenged on a daily basis and my attitude is a reflection of my fear, frustration, and insecurities caused by transitions that directly impact me negatively.  I don’t understand the reasons behind the scenes and can’t seem to rationalize my way through them.  As a result, I find it difficult to jump on board and push the new agendas.

It has been difficult for me to to slow down to the pace of people and silence my mind for a moment so I can assess my internal surroundings and determine what influences I can change that are contributing to my current situation.  I remind myself, life is 10% what happens and 90% how I react.  Primarily, I am influenced by fear of loss, my inability to swiftly adapt to change, and the responses of my co-workers on a day to day basis.  Furthermore, I believe my thoughts become actions.  Actions create my reality.  I no longer wish to be influenced by fear, inflexibility or poor attitudes, least of all my own.  I do not wish a self-fulfilling prophecy to come to fruition.

Here is the step by step process inspired by my introspection in looking for a treatment for my boredom and burnout;

1.  Determine if  you are bored or burnt out.  Remember that boredom and burnout lead to complacency.  Complacency leads to apathy.  Apathy leads to liability.  If you are bored, focus on infusing passion into your career thereby balancing in the profession part of  your professionality.  If you are burnt out focus on infusing passion back into your personal life thereby balancing the personality part of your professionality.  It is possible to be both bored and burnt out.  If you can’t tell the difference, well, that’s another whole blog topic.

2.  To infuse passion into your profession consider the following;

  • Refresh the old or take some new education – Catch up on CME or take a new class – Try taking some online classes through Centrelearn, consider a CCEMTP Course or Community Paramedic Course to expand your scope of knowledge and practice.  EMT’s consider taking ACLS, PHTLS, PALS, PEEP or any of the advanced card classes.  Consider starting an EMS blog, listening, participating as a guest speaker or starting your own EMS Podcast.
  • Teach others – Consider obtaining an instructor credential (ACLS-I, PHTLS-I, EPC-I, etc…) or ask to teach an in-house class on an EMS topic you want to learn more about or one that you are very proficient in.
  • Develop yourself professionally – Network with other EMS professionals by starting a Linkedin account.  Update your resume or CV.  Ask for some letters of recommendation.  Write and submit an article to one of the major EMS magazines for publishing.  Join an EMS professional organization (CECBEMS, NAEMTNAEMSE)  and look for ways to contribute to EMS system changes on a local or national level.

3.  To infuse passion into your personal life consider the following;

  • Enhance social relationships or develop new ones-  Fall in love with your partner again.  Send a hand written letter to your grandparents.  Spend some quality time with your children.  Call an old friend for coffee.  Encourage social interactions by hosting an outdoor movie night, BBQ or theme party.
  • Take a class unrelated to your career path-  Learn a new skill.  Motorcycle riding, Muay Tai, painting, yoga, sailing, there are a gazillion things out there to do.  Pick one, make like a Nike shoe and “Just Do It”.
  • Join and promote a cause –  A great way to change the focus from yourself by subordinating your interests to others is to join a cause.  Walk or run in a weekend event. is an excellent resource for active events in your area.  Join a cause for a local hospital or children’s charity supporting child abuse treatment and prevention, hospice or homelessness.

These suggestions may seem basic or obvious, but unless you actually implement something, you’ll be standing in the same place in the future that you are today.

I was bored and burnt out and I changed my strategies to infuse passion back into my professionality.