EMSA recruiter Christopher Stevens discusses the culture at EMSA, what the schedule’s like, and how EMSA has improved over the years.

Can you describe the culture at EMSA?

What we’re building here is a culture of people with the servant’s heart. Our job as a paramedic is to leave you better than we found you. We have to figure out what’s going on with our patient and how we can best serve them.

That includes our patients, other agencies, doctors, nurses, firefighters, cops, all those folks that we interact with. We leave them better than we found them. At the end of the day, we’re doctors and we’re counselors and we’re emotional support and we’re detectives.

I would say on the whole, everybody at EMSA loves their job. The majority of people love coming to work, and we have some pretty darn dedicated people that work for us. We have a lot of folks that have worked here for a number of years. They are some of the best people I know. They’re people that would give you the shirt off their back. And they just rise to the challenge.

We get asked a lot, “Do you have mandatory callbacks?” And what I tell them is we don’t have to. During the ice storms and the snow storms and tornadoes or–God forbid we should have another Murrah bombing–we didn’t have to ask our crews to come in and help. We had crews literally calling, lighting up their supervisors’ phones, saying, “How can I help? Where can I help? I’m ready to come in. What can I do?”

Be professional, be courteous. That’s the culture that we’re trying to create when we look for outside entities to join the EMSA team.

How busy is a typical EMSA schedule? 

We’re extremely busy. Between Tulsa in Oklahoma City, we run about 350,000 calls a year. So what that equates to is about 300 to 400 calls per day per division. That means you might be seeing fifty or more patients per week in an ambulance.

You’re going to be busy from the time you clock in to the time you leave at EMSA. It’s not uncommon to run six, eight, ten, 12 calls in a shift. It’s not a place for running a call and going back to a station and then, you know, taking it easy for a little while and then going and running another call.

What are some ways that EMSA has improved over the years? 

What I would say is strictly my observations and how EMSA has improved in management over the years is, for example, in mental health.

When I first started in EMS, it was in 1996 and mental health was one of those things that it was sort of taboo to talk about. It was always the unspoken rule of, “Hey, you knew what you were getting into when you signed up for this job. So stuff those feelings way down deep inside, let’s not talk about them again.”

Now, that’s not okay. It hasn’t been okay for a number of years at EMSA. So we can always improve, but I feel like we’ve come a long way. We have a peers team. We have a company chaplain. We have folks that have gone through some counseling training or they’re there as a trained listening ear.

We’re not licensed counselors, but we are trained to listen for red flags, for buzzwords, and we’re there for each other. When you run a bad call, that’s when those teams and those resources come into play because it’s not okay to stuff those feelings down. We want you to be able to reach out and know that you’re not alone in this. And if you need to talk to someone more qualified, then we can point you in that direction.

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