Paramedics have one of the most action-packed careers, building a collection of interesting stories that can be shared with others. Often, movies tend to sensationalise the life of a paramedic, portraying them to be heroic individuals.

However, getting to the “heroic stage” may be a huge struggle. In order to gain a better understanding of what it takes to be a paramedic, autobiographies written by real paramedics might be a good way to better understand the job.

The following are five books which aspiring paramedics might want to add to their bookshelf.

1. Lights and Sirens: The Education of a Paramedic

This book was written by Kevin Grande, who had chosen to be a paramedic at the age of 36. Lights and Sirens is a collection of Grande’s experiences as he gets through the renowned Daniel Freeman Paramedic Program in the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

Having enrolled in one of the toughest paramedic programmes in the world, Grande started out with difficult examinations on anatomy in a classroom environment. Eventually, he was able to apply his theories, sometimes unsuccessfully, during his field internship with the Los Angeles Fire Department.

The stress, trauma and drama that are familiar in paramedic life are captured accurately in this book, and as fellow peers gradually withdraw from the programme, Grande learns that not everyone has what it takes to be a paramedic.

2. Rescue 471: A Paramedic’s Story

In this book, Peter Canning recounts his life as a seasoned paramedic for the private ambulance service in the city of Hartford, Connecticut and its surroundings.

He trains new paramedics and prepares them for the real deal, such as encountering scenarios like a four-month old baby who stopped breathing, and a 67-year old woman who had a mysterious abdominal mass that threatened to explode. The book also highlights the worst cases in the city: drugs, gangs, violence, poverty, obesity and child abuse.

Canning discusses that burnout is very apparent as a paramedic, however, what keeps people in this job is not the pay or the “fame and glory”, but a strong desire to place patient care and safety at the top of their list. Note that this book is a sequel to Canning’s first book, Paramedics: On the Frontlines of Medicine.

3. A Thousand Naked Strangers: A Paramedic’s Wild Ride to the Edge and Back

This book published last year is a collection of short stories by Kevin Hazzard, a failed salesman to local reporter, and now a former seasoned paramedic. At 26 years old, in the aftermath of 9/11, Hazzard became a paramedic and his life transformed as he became familiar with the worst areas of Atlanta.

This book emphasises that being a paramedic requires one to be desensitised to horror and gore, while responding effectively and professionally to the situation. Readers can expect to read stories such as attempting to carry a 300lb person down a narrow staircase, to receiving absolutely no gratitude from those he worked hard to help.

4. Paramedic: The True Story of New York Paramedic’s Battles with Life and Death

Written by Paul D. Shapiro and published in 1991, Paramedic chronicles his rise from a volunteer at a small-town fire department to a senior paramedic in the bustling New York City.

Through this book, the reader gets background information on the way ambulances are run in New York City, and that traffic and pedestrian crowd can be huge burdens when ambulances need to be on the road for critical medical situations.

Shapiro also covers stories like drug overdose and suicide cases, and compares his paramedic life to his personal life, where he had to confront the death of his girlfriend suffering from cancer.

5. 24 Hours at a Time: Life as a Dallas Firefighter-Paramedic

This book was written by Jay Adair and was published in 2012. In 24 hours at a Time, Adair recounts stories from births, suicides, trapped kittens, crazy civilians and crazier firemen.

Adair points out several things that may be relatable to many paramedics or volunteers in an emergency department. For example, people often call the fire department to solve a problem, whether the emergency was true or not.

As an autobiography, Adair only included stories he was directly involved in to guarantee that the facts were true. He shares that most of the narratives were recorded down by him soon after its occurrence, and were stored in his computer until he decided to make a book out of his growing collection. MIMS

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