“Trauma” – my comment from the Happy Medic

The Happy Medic recently asked his readers if they thought cancelling “Trauma” (my new favourite show [whimper]) was a good thing. You might be able to tell from the tone of my post, but I think the EMS community was largely ignorant in so quickly judging the show. If you only watched the pilot, said that it “sucked” and never tuned in again, you’re a fool and I hope you put more effort into other parts of your life.

It had a rough start, but I liked the direction it was heading. I found myself cringing less and less.

I seem to have a different perspective on the show than most of my friends and co-workers You see. they’re all bio and exercise science majors who are EMTs hoping to get into Med School or Nursing school, and I am a Theatre major who discovered EMS too late in a college career to change majors, and will be headed to Paramedic school after I finish my undergrad this year to pursue what I’ve found that I truly love. My entire college career has focused on critiquing performance and media; so let me share a few unorganised thoughts.

I like Trauma.

I was starting to see parts of my different partners in each of the characters. They also saw me in some of the characters.

The humour was getting better. A lot better. I remember the first time I thought they nailed “on-scene humour”, that the show might succeed or that as a community we might warm up to it.

I think most EMS types were critical of it because it was different from what they were expecting. Just because it’s not what you wanted doesn’t make it “bad.” We readily recognise that foreign films may be good, just not our bag of crisps. Why can’t we be so accepting of TV? Because it’s not “high art” like film? The intent of the series was to entertain. A *byproduct* of that is to create awareness and raise questions. Most of us wanted a documentary. But guess what? The public doesn’t want a documentary – that’s already been done in the late 90s on TLC (and yes I still watch those re-runs). Docs have been done – and they’re good but they’re short running and don’t make much money.

The show does, however, have elements of a Doc. It’s putting focus on a marginalised group. Luckily it wasn’t shot like a doc or a news reel. People might have thought this actually 100% real to what we do. But guess what? TV viewers suspend their disbelief because they know it’s a TV show. I doubt most people will be watching us code a family member, demanding to know why we aren’t shocking the patient in asystole. Their memory of the events probably will resemble the way it’s portrayed on Trauma.

We all complain that EMS is under-recognised and does not have a unified voice for change. Where do you expect that recognition to come from? Trauma generally put us in a good light – shocking asystole and HEMS abuse aside. That raises awareness and creates the *opportunity* for dialogue. I think cancelling the show has closed a door for the EMS community. People could have started asking a lot of questions about us – questions we could have answered. Instead of actualyl educating we said “that’s a dumb question.” There’s no faster way to turn off a student to a subject than communicating that. We were quick to judge, and rather than reach out a hand to lift up, we wished it to fail.

I completely agree with the first comment here. Where do you think the writers and producers got these notions? Who else do we have to blame for misconceptions about our industry? If we want to create a positive imagine and change things for the better (EMS 2.0?) then we need to support exposure opportunities like Trauma.

Working for a volunteer EMS agency, I’m acutely aware that things aren’t always that action packed. And my maybe my “young pup” nature gets me excited for these intense traumas, MCIs, and other insanity on a weekly basis. Maybe the older guys are jaded enough to just think that it’s stupid. I’m with HM though – somewhere someone watched this and decided to take that EMT-B class at their community college. Someone remembered that “cool calls” happen once in a while. Someone remembered when the Paramedics came and helped their [family member] with their [nature of illness or mechanism of injury] and how brave and skilled they were. And you know what? They probably remember is being just as intense as Trauma shows it – even if it was “just another diabetic.”

To *us* it’s a 9-5, and we stay calm because “it’s not my emergency.” Well guess what? It’s theirs. Every episode of Trauma was the most intense call ever, because that’s the public’s interaction with us – and that’s who the show was written for.

The bottom line is that I think a valuable opportunity is leaving us, and that as a jaded community we blew it. A lot of good could have come from it. We only have ourselves to blame for the perception the media and the public have of us. When we want to communicate with the public we need to remember that they’re different from us – they aren’t in “the know.”

Goodbye, Paramedic Nancy Carnahan. I’ll see you in my dreams.

Mat Goebel
EMS Fellow

My research interests include EMS, EKG, STEMI, cybersecurity, data viz, ML, and NLP.