A lot of us in this field have dealt with the issue of burnout. For a stressful job it’s pretty common to deal with. I’ve gone through it once, even though I’ve not been in this field too long yet. When I was dealing with it I was actually even newer. It was in my first year as an EMT.
I was working for an IFT company, had just gotten engaged, and going to school full time to get my pre-reqs out of the way for Paramedic school. I thought I was superman and I could handle everything that got thrown at me, but I was very wrong.
I was working all the shifts I could get on, sometimes working 16 hours or more at a stretch, 6 days a week plus going to class when I wasn’t working. I also had to try to make time to see my fiance, who worked for the same company and my normal schedule was actually opposite her schedule, which made it even harder to see her. I was working all those hours since I had a wedding to help pay for plus school to pay for.
It all came to a head one day when I woke up and really just didn’t care about anything. I was more cynical than I ever had been (which is actually saying something), I was tired and irritable all the time, and I seemed to be not doing as well at work or in classes as I knew I could.
My head instructor actually called me into his office and sat me down. We must have talked for hours, and he told me that I needed to find something to do that wasn’t EMS related at all so I could help keep my sanity (or, as he put it, what little sanity someone who wanted to be a paramedic had to begin with). He told me he had been in a similar boat when he was going for his degree and he wouldn’t even see home for days at a time.
It made me think about things. I had gone from one extreme to the other. When I was at my first college as an engineering major, I did nothing but mess around and have fun. It hurt my GPA, but I was happy. Now I was in a field that I loved, but I hated my job and life and wasn’t happy. I thought about all the things I’ve put on hold since I started work and school. I didn’t offroad, or shoot, or take photos, or play paintball. I was lucky if I played a video game once a month or so.
It made me realize that I needed some balance in my life if I wanted to make it in this field. No matter how much you enjoy doing this work, if you don’t have some kind of a stress relief you aren’t going to make it. Since then I’ve made sure I take time to do something that is not related to EMS at all. I’ll go flying down a dirt road in my old truck (which reminds me I need to get another one and get rid of my little car), spend the day out in the wilderness just wandering around and taking photos, or going out with some friends and firing off a few hundred rounds of ammo.
So to any new providers out there, take the advice of people who’ve been in your shoes before and make sure you don’t focus so heavily on one thing that you start hating the thing that you loved. Remember why you got into EMS in the first place, not the drunks or the system abusers, but actually helping people. Take time for yourself too.
In my example, the burn out led to horrible relations with my fiance, which led us to break up a while later, a delay on my entry into medic school due to bad grades, and just general pissing off of the people I was around day in and day out. Don’t follow my mistakes