4 Reasons Being a Remote Paramedic is the Next Best Career Decision for You

What is the draw for so many people wanting to join public safety? Is it the television series or the movies where everyone is a hero? Is it the adrenaline junkies looking to fulfill a need? Maybe it was some sort of calling and they have the natural ability to care for people and have a general idea of doing something good for their community? Or maybe it’s as simple as they just kind of fell into it during college or some weekend retreat? Whatever the reason is, it is a good reason, and we look to our paramedics, firefighters, and police officers to provide a invaluable service to each and every one of our communities throughout the world.

Ambulance in action at nightHowever, if you are like me you only had a small understanding of what the job consisted of and there was a lot more that you didn’t know. I remember being about 15 years old when I discovered that I wanted to be a paramedic. I remember seeing that ambulance screaming down the road with their lights and sirens blaring and thinking… “Now that is the job for me!” I was one of those people that thought that I just had that natural ability to help people. 17 years later I am still an active paramedic, but I quickly realized that I was not going to be able to street corner post in an ambulance forever. All those things that I didn’t know about the job had been discovered; the long hours, the low pay, the slow opportunity for promotions, and the general toll it has on your physical and mental well-being.

Once you are a paramedic there are a couple of solid avenues that you can take. You work for a private ambulance company, join a fire department, become a flight paramedic, or increase your education and become a nurse, physician assistant, or even a doctor. But what if none of those interest you, are you stuck or is it time for a completely different career? Well I am here to tell you there is one more great opportunity and that is to be a remote paramedic.

I will tell you that I have spent my entire career on a private ambulance, and I will also tell you that I am grateful for it as I have learned so much, I have met amazing people, and changed the lives of countless individuals. But, as the years went by, I realized I was kind of lost and didn’t know what was next. I educated aspiring emergency medical technicians and paramedics and I did the whole management thing but at the end of the day I was looking for a change and a new challenge. As many of you know, becoming a firefighter is very competitive and not everyone makes it.  I have no desire to be a nurse and I was definitely not smart enough to be a doctor. Then I became a remote paramedic and it has turned out to be one of the greatest decisions of my career.

So here are my 4 reasons why being a remote paramedic may be the next best career decision for you.


The ability to travel all throughout the world.

As a paramedic on the ambulance your day is never the same, however, you are typically in the same city each day, sitting on the same street corner, drinking the same Starbucks coffee.  But that all changed with remote paramedicine.  I could be on land in the middle of nowhere and have helicopters buzzing all around as they build a new oil rig, and then find myself the following month in the Arctic Ocean on a large vessel researching sea life with scientists, to living on a train that has skis instead of rails moving across the tundra in the winter on an exploration. Now that is something different, and I am not stuck staring at the same light post day in and day out.

The View

Because the project is never the same, neither is the view. I have been to some of the most spectacular places that the average person will never go. I have seen animals like walrus, seals, whales, polar bears, and artic fox. Most people will never get an opportunity like this, but if they happen to they end up paying thousands of dollars for these excursions.

The People

I have enjoyed all of the people that I have met in my career as a paramedic, however, we were all likeminded and I saw the same people each day of the week.  When I got into the remote side I met amazing people from all over the world with different career paths, beliefs, cultures, ideas, and passions. I will tell you this is the best way to learn about the world and things that you had no idea about and broaden your horizons.

The Camaraderie

There is camaraderie in public safety, but there is also comradery in remote work as well, it is just different. Again, in public safety it is the comradery of likeminded people. Remote is a different comradery. Many of us spend weeks to months together at a single time and we all have the comradery for the project. When I was on the ambulance there would be the brotherhood for 24-48 hours and then we would go home. Out here, we learn to live with each other and although it has its similarities to public safety…it is different.  No one person is better than the next. Everyone looks out for each other from managers, to the cooks, all the way down to the custodial staff, because this is a tough and unforgiving environment.

The Pay

If you have spent any time in emergency services you know that pay is always a topic for discussion. The average emergency medical technician is paid at minimum wage to start out at and it doesn’t grow substantially as a paramedic. What if I told you that remote paramedics make up to 3 times what a private ambulance paramedic earns and you do that while seeing the world and meeting fantastic people all along the way?

Being a remote paramedic has its challenges, but I will also tell you that those challenges are outweighed by those top 4 reason. However, the pay cannot be your driving force, but if you are a person that is looking for adventure, experiences, culture, and an overall different career path, then remote medicine may be that solution. I have now been doing this for about 2 years and I have to say I don’t regret one minute of it and every time I arrive at a new project and look around I think to myself, “Now this is a job for me!”



About the Author:

Jason McLaughlin is the General Manager of SALA Remote Medics. He has been in the Emergency Medical Services Field for 17 years and has a Degree in Organizational Leadership and Emergency Management from Colorado State University.

How do you maintain your certification?

When one works for an ambulance service or fire department, it is generally easy to maintain your certification as agencies frequently offer enough training in-house that one does not have to seek out their own learning opportunities. It becomes more difficult to offer enough in-house training when everyone is in a different area. At any given time, several folks may be at home. They are the easy ones to reach. But, there are generally folks out in the remote areas, with limited access to continuing education.

All of the Paramedics with SALA are Nationally Registered. This means that they all meet the requirements of a very strict certification process. In some cases, the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) is more stringent than many states. NREMT requires 72 hours of specific training every two years. To make it a bit more difficult, only 22 of the required 72 hours can be completed through non-instructor contact (also known as distributive education). That means that some education can be completed using an online presentation or video with a quiz or magazine article with a quiz. The rest has to be through instructor contact. In the past, this meant that the student had to be present in the classroom for the entire educational session.

How is the classroom requirement overcome when people are working in disparate locations? One way is through web-based, instructor led, live presentations with immediate access to the instructor to have questions addressed quickly. This has been very beneficial for everyone… as long as the internet is fast enough to allow for video and audio to run without interruption. More often than not, we have little trouble making sure the Paramedics out in the field can access these educational opportunities. During those rare times when internet bandwidth is very difficult to come by, the presentation will be sent to the clinic and the Paramedic will be on the phone call while flipping the presentation to the next slide… think back to elementary school filmstrips. It seems archaic, but it works.

Many of us look for free educational opportunities that occur when we are at home and meet our schedule. There are lots of these that come up. Where I live, one can generally find 2-4 hours of free education per month within a very short drive. These are often in the form of lectures on an issue that has been seen in the local area, but they are also great venues for reviewing case studies of patients recently treated.

Another option is educational opportunities that must be paid for. These include classes that typically run from 2 days up to 4-5 weeks (2-3 days per week). Conferences are one of the most popular of these as they generally offer a wide variety of topics and afford the attendees the opportunity to spend time with colleagues and network. Courses in the two day range tend to be topic specific and focus on that one area for 12-16 hours.  For example, Prehospital Trauma Life Support is a 2-day course that focuses solely on trauma. This is a great way to meet the NREMT trauma requirements and to refresh on assessments and patient presentations that may not be frequently seen.

While maintaining certification through NREMT is important, we also must address training that is specific to the environment in which we work. This means that we are reviewing updates to Health, Safety, and Environment training along with required credentials such as the Transportation Workers Identification Credential and cold-water survival.

What does all of this mean? It means that when we are working, we are still able to work toward certification maintenance. But, when we are not out at a remote worksite, we still work toward maintaining certification. In the end, this benefits not only our clients and patients, but our lively hood as well.

By Scott NelsonB.S., NRP, MICP

Be prepared to sit back and enjoy the weather

During a recent job, I found myself working in the field with the advance crew performing survey and ice check. We were aware that weather was coming in and made plans to be back at our crew change location ahead of the anticipated weather. The weather decided to change plans on us. We arrived at our crew change location as the weather was moving in. It wasn’t unmanageable or unsafe to travel just yet. But, within about 15 minutes, the snow and wind had increased so much that we were not able to see more than a few feet ahead of our vehicle. The decision was made to stop any movement of our vehicle and wait for the weather to improve (the winds to die down). We contacted our journey management and supervisors and they concurred with this decision. It’s better to play it safe than to try to push through. The Incident Management Team (IMT) for the area was mobilized and the weather was deemed to be at the highest level possible. That means that everyone was to shelter in place and that no one is allowed to travel on the roads except in an emergency and they must have a heavy equipment escort (snow plow, bulldozer, etc…).

During orientation for each job, the discussion of carrying extra food and water comes up repeatedly. One must always have their warmest winter gear with them as well, even if the gear is not being worn out to the field. This is advice that I always heed. It came in handy on this particular day. The temperature was pretty warm for the area, so I did not wear my heaviest gear. I’m glad I had it with me. As visibility dropped, I put on my gear. I also stepped out of the vehicle to take natures call as I didn’t want to try to accomplish this in heavy winds. Over the course of several hours, the weather did not seem to improve at all. I was glad that I packed some extra food. I attempted to sleep in the vehicle, but the combination of the not-so-comfortable seats and the shaking of the vehicle from the wind made it difficult.

After several hours (we arrived at the crew change point at 5:30pm), the IMT contacted us to let us know that a bulldozer should be to us within an hour. It arrived quickly. At around 3:30 in the morning, we were being rescued and headed to a location where we would be out of our vehicle and inside. Woohoo! But, that feeling was gone quickly as we realized that our vehicle would not shift into gear. We were not going anywhere in that vehicle. We had another vehicle with us and were able to climb into it and follow our escort out. We made it to the new location and to bed at around 5:30 in the morning.

At no time did I feel as though I were in danger. Why? Because I was prepared. I had my heavy cold weather gear along with food and water and plenty of fuel. I had an attitude of gratefulness toward the training that I had received.

Weather can be fickle. Always be prepared for it to change quickly. Not just in the arctic circle, but at home as well.

By Scott Nelson, B.S., NRP, MICP

No Place is Safer than Us