First Responders and Coffee – Old School, New School Paramedics – Call Management and Keeping a Clean Ambulance Ep 3

First Responders and Coffee: Balancing Shift Work and Social Life in EMS

Shift work can be a demanding aspect of being a paramedic, often impacting not only one’s physical health but also their social life. In the YouTube podcast episode titled “First Responders and Coffee,” the hosts delve into the challenges that come with working in the emergency medical services (EMS) industry, particularly the shift patterns that have changed over time. The hosts, who refer to themselves as old school and new school, come together to impart wisdom and share their experiences, aiming to educate and assist those entering the field or seeking advice to make their EMS journey smoother.

The Shift Work Conundrum

A significant topic discussed in the podcast is the transition from 14-hour shifts to 12-hour shifts. While both old school and new school hosts have their unique perspectives, they agree that this change has had a considerable impact on their social lives. The new 12-hour shifts leave less room for breaks, making it challenging to find time to rest and recharge during a busy day on the job. As a result, paramedics find themselves living on coffee or energy drinks to stay alert during their long shifts.

The hosts emphasize the importance of packing enough food and snacks for their shifts, not only to maintain energy levels but also to avoid getting cranky or frustrated. In a fast-paced and high-stress profession like EMS, proper nutrition plays a crucial role in maintaining optimal performance and overall well-being. They recommend carrying a lunch bag with carefully planned meals to keep them fueled throughout the day.

Sleep and Its Impact on Paramedics

Sleep is another critical aspect that paramedics must contend with in their line of work. The new school host, who works an evening shift from 4 PM to midnight, shares how his social life has been affected due to the unconventional work hours. Most of his friends follow regular day jobs, making it challenging to find time to socialize with them. On the other hand, the old school host, who has been in the industry for much longer, discusses how he used to work two days and two nights, which allowed him some time to catch up on sleep in between shifts. However, with the switch to 12-hour shifts, sleep patterns have become even more disrupted, affecting not only their social lives but also their overall health.

Strategies for Managing Sleep Patterns

The hosts discuss several strategies to manage sleep patterns effectively in their unpredictable schedules. They suggest creating a sleep-conducive environment by using white noise machines or fans to block out disturbances and ensure restful sleep. Additionally, they recommend keeping the bedroom cooler, as a drop in body temperature can promote better sleep. Some paramedics may resort to medication to help them sleep during the daytime, but it’s essential to seek professional guidance and support if sleep disturbances become chronic.

Furthermore, living with roommates who understand and respect the demands of shift work can make a significant difference in managing sleep schedules. When rooming with other shift workers, coordinating rest times can create a harmonious environment that supports quality sleep.

Mental Health in EMS

The podcast also touches upon the critical issue of mental health in EMS. The hosts emphasize that seeking help and support for mental health challenges is crucial for maintaining a sustainable and fulfilling career in this industry. Paramedics often face traumatic and emotionally taxing situations, which can take a toll on their mental well-being. The transition between different shift patterns and the associated social implications can further contribute to stress and anxiety.

Seeking professional help, talking to peers, or engaging in support groups can provide much-needed assistance to cope with the pressures of the job. Employers are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of mental health in the EMS field, offering more resources and support for their employees.


The YouTube podcast episode, “First Responders and Coffee,” provides valuable insights into the world of EMS and the challenges paramedics face. The shift work demands, particularly the transition from 14-hour to 12-hour shifts, have significant implications on paramedics’ social lives and sleep patterns. Balancing these aspects while maintaining good mental health is crucial for a long and successful career in EMS.

Aspiring paramedics can gain wisdom from the experiences shared by the old school and new school hosts, helping them prepare for the realities of the job. Moreover, emphasizing the importance of seeking mental health support serves as a reminder that prioritizing well-being is just as essential as responding to emergency situations. By implementing the suggested strategies and seeking assistance when needed, paramedics can navigate the unique challenges of their profession with resilience and dedication.