Paramedic Amanda King shares her story of thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail and overcoming EMS burnout
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After realizing she was suffering from burnout, Paramedic Amanda King decided to leave her service and take on one of the most physically challenging trails in the United States. Amanda made a decision that changed how she saw people, how she viewed the world and how she understood herself.
Three months after resigning, selling her house and storing her furniture, Amanda was dropped off in Georgia, alone, with one goal: to hike the entire Appalachian Trail. With her hiker home packed into a rucksack on her back, she embarked on a seven-and-a-half month epic adventure which saw her hike nearly 2,200 miles. She endured harsh weather, a regional drought, rugged terrain and so much more on a journey that evolved her in ways she could not have ever imagined.
After deciding to return to EMS, Amanda chats with Rob Lawrence about her experience, the individuals she met along the way and how her experiences can be translated back into life as a medic. Amanda also reflects on her life before the trail and offers inspiration and takeaways for all.
TOP QUOTES FROM THIS EPISODE
“I think my biggest regret is, it's a very simple word. It's two letters long and it's the word ‘no!’ Don't be afraid to say no. Take time for yourself, because you are the most important person. You know, if you're not happy and if you're not safe, how can you expect to keep other people happy and safe? I think that's the biggest thing, don't work so much overtime, don't inconvenience yourself to do all of these things that's asked of you, in return you're not taking care of yourself. So, one thing that I decided if I got back into EMS, is I would use my vacation time. So I'll put it to you this way. When I was at the former employer, I took a vacation maybe twice in 6 years or something like that, like an actual vacation. I've already taken two vacations since I started here at Novant, since November – so that's a huge difference.”
“I don't want to say yes, a 7-month hike in the woods cured all my problems, because that's not at all the case. I think that it's an ongoing process that, once you reach that point of burnout, it's number one up to you. It's not up to anybody else to help you. It's up to you to help you. And you have to want that change. I think that it's an everyday thing. Every day I need to do things that keep me on that path of not going back down that road again.”
“I think that was a symptom of the burnout where I was at, I had no patience whatsoever and it showed. It showed to my partner, it showed to family members that I would encounter on a call. And I hate to admit all that; it's embarrassing, but that's where I was, that was the point where I was at. I think now, after all that time off, and all that time to self-reflect, I think I'm more patient because I believe that I'm more empathetic, which is also something that I can't say that I possessed before I left.”
02:29 – Introducing Amanda King
05:06 – Symptoms of burnout
07:16 – The moment you realize you are done
10:57 – Selling and putting everything in storage
13:23 – Hiking with friends
15:53 – Packing for a 2,000 mile walk
18:48 – Mental fortitude
22:47 – Trail angels
24:40 – Trail magic
26:32 – Becoming ‘moss’
29:49 – Hindsight is 20/20
31:16 – Keeping a journal
33:30 – Taking a zero: how to use down time
41:14 – 2,000 miles later …
48:05 – Developing patience
51:02 – Message to those heading into crisis or breakdown
54:13 – Contact details
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES ON THIS TOPIC
ABOUT OUR GUEST
Amanda King is a paramedic from the coast of North Carolina. Prior to joining EMS, she obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. During her first 10 years in EMS, she was promoted to field training officer, became an EMS instructor, developed a field training and evaluation program for her former agency, taught EMS classes for the local community college and earned a real estate license. She left EMS and thought she’d never return. Now, after becoming one of just over 1,000 people to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail in 2022, she has returned to EMS and now works for Novant Health Mobile Integrated Health. She is currently in graduate school to obtain a master’s degree in public administration.
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