The privilege of working “Choose a job you love and you will never work a day in your life”. This quote has been attributed to Confucius. Pretty smart guy if you ask me. When I tell people what I do… work in remote medicine as a Paramedic in the arctic, the first question they ask is “How do I get a job like that?” Followed by “isn’t it cold there?” The answer to the first question, at least for me, is that I knew someone and he brought me up here at a time when I needed to see EMS through a different lens. More on that later. The answer to the second questions is… “Yes”. That is the easy one… IT IS THE ARCTIC AFTER ALL.
After working in Emergency Medical Services (EMS) for nearly two decades (at that time) in roles including; wheelchair vehicle driver, emergency medical technician on a transfer ambulance then to emergency medical technician on a first response 911 ambulance, promoting to paramedic, then having the pleasure of becoming an Educator for an EMS training program and a Fire Department and finally becoming a Clinical Director for an ambulance service. I think it’s safe to say that I had seen many aspects of EMS, the good, the bad, and the ugly. I needed a change or I needed to get out of the business that I had loved for so long but began to despise.
I was able to find a short-term position with a remote medical service provider. The first remote job I picked up had me spending three weeks in an isolated spot in a western state. It was perfect! I was able to remind myself that there is more to EMS than just chasing one thing after another. I was being paid a decent wage, and I was able to checkout from technology (cellphones and internet access) as well as the grind of running emergent and non-emergent call after call for a while. It is amazing how that can clear one’s thoughts and change your perspective.
Over time, I found myself working in remote areas of Alaska, on the sea as well as on land. The coolest part? Most of my work in Alaska has been in the Arctic Circle. Yes, it IS cold there. I have had the opportunity to see the northern lights, whales, walrus, seabirds, foxes, caribou, musk ox, and wolves. I have observed people in one of the harshest environments on the planet and watched them thrive as human beings. I’ve learned about industrial areas that I had not previously been exposed too. I have met people from areas of the world I had not even conceptualized beyond reading National Geographic or watching the Discovery Channel and learned about their families, their homes, cultures, and values.
I left this job for a short-time to pursue an opportunity that was presented to me. That opportunity was a J-O-B. I felt as though I was showing up to work every day and forgot what it was like to be happy. I realized that I missed working in remote medicine and returned to a job I love. It is a privilege to find a job that is enticing and challenging but rewarding and yet still pays well.
I do not really feel like I go to a job anymore. It is not work at all; it is fun, interesting, and an adventure. As soon as one tour is over, I find that I cannot wait to return for my next.
By Scott Nelson, B.S., NRP, MICP