A Paramedic's Story: An Autoethnography of Chaos and Quest
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This research study represents a personalized account of my experiences as a San Antonio Fire Department (SAFD) paramedic. In this study I bring the reader closer to the subculture of the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) through the research methodology of autoethnography. This qualitative method allows me to be researcher, subject, and narrator of the study. Autoethnography requires considerable attention to reflection, introspection, and self-analysis through the use of the narrative. Written in first person voice, I am positioned in the narrative in a manner that allows me to communicate directly with the audience. Through an insider’s perspective, I have traced the time I spent in EMS by reflecting, interpreting, and analyzing a collection of epochal events that significantly impacted my life both personally and professionally. There are five themes that I have identified as salient to the meaning-making process of the study: (a) death and dying, (b) faith and spirituality, (c) job burnout, (d) dealing and coping with job-related stress, and (e) alcohol abuse. The events that I have selected for this study may be read and interpreted as a prelude to what is a much broader narrative of my tenure in EMS and of other emergency responders’ experiences as well. The study explores how my life was impacted beyond the immediate experience and how the story continues to evolve to the present day. The study establishes a foundation for designing training programs to be used by public safety educators. Three theoretical elements of adult learning that help inform professional education strategies for emergency responders have been identified: (a) experiential, (b) narrative, and (c) transformative learning. The study also sensitizes the general public to the physical, social, and psychological demands that are placed on paramedics. It is important for the reader to know that these public servants are ordinary human beings doing extraordinary work in one of the most stressful and hazardous professions in the world.
De La Garza, John A. (2011). A Paramedic's Story: An Autoethnography of Chaos and Quest. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from