While many people in EMS education roll their eyes when an instructor tells a story, I’ve found that when a story paints a picture that demonstrates a lecture point, it becomes a meaningful sharing experience for both the learner and the instructor.

My personal story of holiday stress

first responder

Scott McConnell, BSN, RN, CEN, PHRN, NRP, EMS-I


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I was working the usual three jobs in EMS — two full-time and one (or more) part-time positions.

It was getting toward Christmas and my wife wanted to talk about gifts. We sat down after putting our daughter down for the night, and my wife told me earlier our daughter had revealed what gift she wanted most — a Disney cruise.

Thinking we could go the following Christmas, we looked at how much it would cost for the three of us. As we added up the cruise fare, flights, excursions and more, a heaping dose of holiday stress hit me.

Thoughts of trying to make everyone happy during the holidays while making ends meet and not working yourself to death can cause major stress. I’m certain many of us have this in the back of our minds as the holiday season approaches.

According to an article from the National Institutes of Health, “Stress can generally be defined as undue, inappropriate or exaggerated response to a situation. Whereas anxiety about a situation could be positive, stress is always negative with attending adverse psychological and physiological changes leading to decreased productivity, disease and sometimes death.”

EMS is a very stressful occupation. The job involves long hours, lack of equipment, staffing issues and relatively low pay (click here to see the national average reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.) holiday stress

The holidays only increase this stress.

How did my personal story pan out?

By now you are wondering what I did so my family could take this dream vacation the following year.

I worked seven 12-hour shifts for a year and a half — not quite working myself to death, but certainly putting in enough effort to earn the title of “Best Dad in the World.”

I survived at home because I had a great support system, but I realize some of our brothers and sisters in the profession do not have such support at home or at work.

So when the holidays bring on negative stress in our careers and home lives, there are things we can do to mitigate it.

One great resource is our free eBook download about how EMTs can better manage stress.

Most important, if you need help, please ask. The free book lists many helpful resources.

Personally, I find the stigma of “toughing it out” pointless. It only hurts you as a person and us as an industry when you don’t ask for help.

Download our free ebook “7 Tips to Help EMTs Manage Stress” here.