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Getting a Little Burned Out? Maybe Not


 A sailor assigned to the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) practices shipboard firefighting at the Yokosuka Center for Naval Engineering Firefighting School at Commander Fleet Activities Yokosuka. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Paul Kelly)

We start in the fire service somewhere between 18 and 24 year old.  We watched a bunch of cool fire movies, and now we want to be a part of all those amazing rescues.  Those big fires, and all the excitement is exactly what we want to do for the rest of our lives. 


Whether we work on a part-time basis or get hired on a full time department we are ready to take our place on the front lines rescuing those people trapped on the fifth floor balcony.  After a while we realize that was just in the movies.


After a few years you start to understand that during your career you might get a couple chances at a real rescue like that.  The idea of putting out fires all day has long past.  Instead of putting out fires you spend most of your time resetting fire alarms.  You don’t put on our SCBA because you are going to rescue someone, instead you wear it because the Battalion Chief will write you up if you reset that alarm without putting it on.  All those things add up and sometimes they make you wonder why you thought this was such a good idea in the first place.


If you work in EMS your back is probably sore by now because you have lifted that stretcher hundreds of times.  You may have had a save or two but nothing like those amazing patient recoveries you see on TV.  Most of the people you do save end up in a nursing home with not much to live for. 


They never told you in EMT school that you deal with a lot of people that have been drinking, but now you expect it every Friday and Saturday night.  You know the regulars by name, and sometimes you can tell who you are picking up just based on the location of the call.  Instead of starting an IV to save someone you go through all those ALS protocols to keep the ER doctor happy. 


That sad description of your job is what causes you to get burned out.  You want to rescue and defibrillate people but end up changing the battery in their CO detector. 


The problem you are dealing with is that you have devalued your job to the point of thinking you aren’t making any difference. 


The truth of the matter is that those little things you do are often big things to those that you do them for. 


That battery you put in the smoke detector was for a woman who had just lost her husband.  Not only did she enjoy talking to you, but the smoke detector alerted her of some food she left in the oven a couple weeks later, 


That guy who had too much to drink decided to get some help, just because you told him his kids need him.  The little things you do make a big difference to the ones that you help. 


“Every day focus on your purpose.  Remember why you do what you do.  We don’t get burned out because of what we do. We get burned out because we forgot why we do it.”  Jon Gordon

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