Career Development


Focus on Development and the Career part will follow naturally

Ah, Career Development.  Some begin their career in emergency services as soon as they’re born. Some even before that. We see Mom and Dad or Uncle Jim  and maybe even Granddad or Grandma wearing that uniform and going out to help people and even play with the lights and sirens and they know, we just KNOW that’s what we’re going to do.

Then there are those of us who receive the call later in life.

That was me

After a few years in college, wandering into a volunteer firehouse to see if they would teach me more of what I had picked up in a Red Cross first aid class. I was told, “If you like THAT, wait’ll you get a load of THIS!” and the EMT textbook was immediately flipped open to a picture of some part of the human body that I could only identify as “the hurty part” because of all of the blood and the yuck and the flesh and the yuck. I think that because I said “Cool” instead of puking into the nearest trashcan, I was sworn in before I could change my mind.

As I progressed through my volunteer and paid career, I often envied those who were born into it. They knew all the terms and the equipment and the people before I did. And more importantly, they worked with a sense of certainty that it took me years to acquire. I took class after class, learning the many different ways that people could hurt themselves and others and I learned what I could do to minimize the damage. Eventually I was teaching some of these classes. I wanted to share the information, but also the joy of getting to help and the pain of not being able to do enough. I wanted to surround myself with people who understood what this was all about and eventually I came to know this as the brotherhood (and sisterhood) of emergency services.


Twenty Years In

I’ve been blessed with a number of different career opportunities.  I’ve been able to develop lectures and participate in training programs that I think are important and share them with emergency responders all over the country. With this month’s updates to the CPR and ECC guidelines, I’m one of the people responsible for explaining the why’s and wherefores of the changes. With promotional exams in my fire department, I’ve had the opportunity to test for shift commander. All these and more “want to dos” than I have space for on a computer screen.

So my wife and my family (both in and out of the firehouse), we’ve all been talking a lot about what to do next. We wouldn’t treat a patient with cookbook medicine. We wouldn’t put a fire out with cookbook firefighting. We shouldn’t move along with cookbook career choices. I used to believe in being ready to take EVERY opportunity. Now I believe in taking the RIGHT opportunities.


What do you want?

This kind of introspection is actually a big part of the Interview / Resume workshop that I talk about. Think about what you want to do. Think about what you’re good at. Think about what makes you happiest. Now think about what you can do to contribute. I honestly believe in this as advice for anyone to have a healthy and fulfilling career.

For me, I believe that the answer to all of these questions is helping to take good ideas, my own and other people’s, and sharing them among emergency responders wherever I can. As for the best way(s) to make this happen, well, I’m also lucky to have some great co-workers and mentors to turn to for advice. But as for finding a great mentor or being one, that’s for next month. in the meantime, stay safe!



About The Author

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Editorial Director of RescueDigest, Rom Duckworth is an internationally recognized writer, speaker, and educator. Co-founder of the New England Center for Rescue and Emergency Medicine and an emergency service provider for more than twenty years in fire / rescue services, public and private emergency medical services and hospital based healthcare Rom can be found at and on Twitter @romduck

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About romduck

Rom Duckworth is a dedicated emergency responder and award-winning educator with more than twenty five years of experience working in career and volunteer fire departments, public and private emergency services and hospital based healthcare systems. Currently a career Fire Captain / Paramedic and EMS Coordinator Rom is a frequent speaker at national conferences and a regular contributor to research, magazines, and textbooks on topics of field operations, leadership, and education in emergency services. Contact Rom via