EMS Burnout: Causes, Prevention, and Stress Reduction Tips

In every department, and for every paramedic and EMT, there are about 100 reasons why burnout is one of the most common career killers. Too few people on the job, long shifts, too many shifts, overtime, old equipment that never works the way it is supposed to or when it is supposed to, patients who are surly and even aggressive — these and countless other issues can quickly add up to burnout among EMS professionals.

The working conditions for most EMS professionals are less than ideal. There’s never enough funding to get things up to par and to ensure there are enough people on staff to fairly share the workload. The pay is often far too low for the unpredictable situations that routinely define a “normal” day at work.

Prevent Burnout

If you haven’t yet reached the point where you feel completely burned out on the job, that’s good news. You can make sure you stay that way by taking preventative measures to protect against burnout, including:

  • Check in with yourself regularly. It’s easy to get caught up in the job, going through the motions of getting through work, going home, and heading back on a regular schedule. Take time to recognize when stress levels are building or a situation is becoming untenable, and manage it before it gets out of hand.
  • Take time off when you need it. You may feel like you need to take extra shifts, cover for coworkers, and work overtime and double shifts, but it’s not good for you or for your ability to do your job well. If you need time off, take it — and everyone needs time off. Regular downtime is needed for you to rejuvenate and refresh so you are better able to do your job when you return to work.
  • Push for what you need to do your job well. If you have broken equipment, talk to your supervisor and keep talking about it until it gets fixed. If you are having problems with the police officers, paramedics, or firefighters you work with, get it worked out.
  • Connect with others in the field. It’s important to connect with other people who are doing the same job. If necessary, you can join together to create positive change in your workplace, and support one another along the way.

Managing Burnout and Stress

Keeping stress levels low all the time helps to increase your ability to manage acute stressors when they arise — and they will. Being an EMT or paramedic is the definition of a stressful job, but you can manage your stress levels by:

  • Paying attention to your sleep schedule and doing the best you can to get good quality sleep regularly
  • Eating well
  • Working out regularly
  • Engaging in stress-reduction activities like massage, yoga, and meditation
  • Talking to a therapist if you find you need some tips on managing stress, depression, or anxiety

How do you manage burnout and stress on the job?


This article was originally published by Michael Blackburn, retired Providence Fire Department Battalion Chief and senior VP of Business Development at American Addiction Centers, on LinkedIn.

First Responders

Our counselors are always on-hand to assist you. Helpline Firefighters: 888–337–9381 Police Officers: 888–997–5675

American Addiction Centers

Written by

American Addiction Centers | national behavioral healthcare provider focused on addiction treatment. 800.466.8064

First Responders

Our counselors are always on-hand to assist you. Helpline Firefighters: 888–337–9381 Police Officers: 888–997–5675

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