Blogging

I occasionally have people ask me for advice about writing/blogging about EMS.

When I first considered starting a blog, I consulted with “the MacMedic,” a paramedic who at the time was working in my state. He gave me some advice as well as directing me to a blog post written by Tom Reynolds, an English EMT, and author of the blog, Random Acts of Reality. (Reyonlds turned excerpts from his blog into the book, Blood, Sweat & Tea: Real-Life Adventures in an Inner-City Ambulance.

Here is Reynolds’ post on blogging:

How To Blog And Not Lose Your Job

I followed Reynolds’s advice, as well as advice given to me by the Macmedic, and made certain my employers knew I was writing a blog. I emphasized to them I valued my job and was open to any changes or suggestions to prevent any problems. My policy is not to rank on anyone or the company, or at least not in a hateful way. I occasionally rail against the system, but not against any individuals. Generic subjects can be fair targets; identifiable ones are not. While in my books I used the real names of my partners and coworkers believing they deserved credit for the fine work they do, I have chosen for the most part not to follow that course on the internet. Consequently sometimes my posts appear as if I am the only responder there or if I have a partner, they are largely faceless, unless the story is centered around their involvement on the call.

I have also taken great strides to protect patient confidentiality. In addition to changing identifying details, I often use a randomized method of selecting sex and age to further obscure any case that might be known to the public. In only a few cases have I not written about a call for fear that I would reveal personal details that could be readily identified. In other cases, I have written about a call months out of sequence. It is easier for me to write about calls when I am working in the city and can respond to any of a number of towns beside the city, than when I am working in the one suburban town to which I am assigned.

I think it would be very difficult to write a blog in a small town with a low call volume and still protect confidentiality. The greater the population you serve, the easier it is to safely write about a call. I have heard many stories of small town bloggers offending fellow crew members or even town residents. I would advise anyone writing about a small service to be extremely careful in what they write, as you should even in a larger service. Write as if you were standing in front of the town, giving a public reading.

The one area where people seem to get in the most trouble is with photos. When I first started, I was tempted a number of times to post a photo of an accident scene, even once going so far as uploading a photo of one mangled car very relevant to the story, but was unable to push the publish button out of fear I was crossing a line. A newspaper or TV station can show the pictures, but health care providers cannot. I would think the only way you could post the photos safely would be to show a photo that does not in any way identify a person or specific car or accident scene and post it at a date different than that on which it occurred. When in doubt I would always first check with your company’s policy. Many companies now have policies prohibiting both the taking of photos unless taken with an officially issued camera and then only for patient care purposes. If your company doesn’t have a policy, you might want to work with them to develop one.

As important as I believe blogging is in spreading the word about what life is like in EMS, I don’t think it is ever worth losing your job over.

As far as a personal policy, I would say this:

Don’t use writing to put someone else down, particularly someone who cannot properly defend themselves. Don’t be cruel. Write to elevate what we do. Write to elevate the spirit you have seen in people you have cared for — in their worst and best moments. Write to share your human experience with those who can benefit from it. Record your stories, your thoughts, and your revelations. Use your writing to try to understand the world, not to condemn it. Share your victories, your defeats, your frustrations and your hopes. Write to show that you have walked down the EMS streets.

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Some final thoughts. Blogging about EMS is an excellent way to stay fresh. By looking for material, I can see interesting things I might not have noticed. It keeps me from falling into a rut.

Blogging can be particularly useful for a new medic. Writing about a call can enable you to think about it in a new way, as well as to learn from the comments of readers. The experiences we have that can seem isolated to ourselves we learn are actually fairly universal.

Everyone should find their own angle so that they are writing about what interests them. Some blogs are story-centered, some medically centered, some are very introspective, and others go for the humor. Write what you enjoy.

It is not a bad idea if you are thinking of starting a blog to read the work of others.

I have quite a number of blogs listed in my blogroll. While I don’t read them all everyday, I periodically check in on them to see how they are doing. They all have their own voice and are worth a listen. Find someone with a style that matches yours and learn from that blogger.

There are many others out there waiting to be discovered. If you start a new EMS blog, don’t hesitate to send me a link, and I will add you to my blogroll.

Together, we, as EMS bloggers, are painting a fresh immediate portrait of what our work and world is really like that you can’t find anywhere else. Our contributions help others; both fellow EMSers and members of the public understand our unique and extremely important profession.

Keep up the writing and stay safe!

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Peter Canning

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