Friday, September 17, 2010

The Buddhist Paramedic- Deepening Compassion

A mountain-top antenna extends skyward through the clouds and mist.

I was approached on Facebook by a Zen Buddhist priest who asked me about becoming involved in Emergency Medical Services (EMS) as a future vocation.  The conversation is still ongoing but its one that I'm very excited to have.  I can think of no other job that will deepen a Buddhist practice more so than EMS; I say that with a bit of a sarcastic undertone.

If you stay in EMS long enough you encounter terms like, "burnt-out" or "jaded", and I asked myself what exactly do those mean.  After some brief consideration the answer that I arrived at is a paramedic or EMT that has dealt with the world's sick and pseudo-sick for so long that they no longer can dredge up any empathy or compassion for their patients.  To be accurate, as a good friend pointed out, this is not only limited to EMS but also extends to nurses and physicians as well. 

Enter the Buddhist.  If you want to become physically stronger you have to stress your muscles so that they grow and develop.  Likewise, if you desire (ouch!) to become more compassionate you have to place yourself in situations where this emotion is stressed and tested: EMS.  The practicing Buddhist paramedic is tested everyday with the hoards of drug-seekers, EMS abusers, the pseudo-sick, people craving attention, uncaring medical staff, and of course uncaring family members.  Its a world that over time whittles away at one's compassion, and ability or desire to emotionally connect with patients. What better place for a Buddhist to find greater empathy and compassion?

1 comment:

devineprotector said...

That is a great explanation E... I have been there. The burned out part and as you have shared so eloquently it is only through this and many experiences in life that you can truly come to terms with, accept and change our weeknesses. Don't forget to add into the mix all of the horrible things we see done to humans for a myriad of reasons.
"The best way to truly appreciate life and it's frailty; is to take a life and give a life!"