Community Forum

Working As EMT With Seizure Disorder?

Is anyone here and EMT or Paramedic? I have some questions about how I can get a job in the field since I have partial seizures. And how or if I should disclose the info to potential employers.

I am an EMT-basic and just interviewed for a job with at a local ambulance service and it is a requirement that you know how to drive the ambulance. I was planning on just being going with BLS trucks and working in the back rather than driving, but they said they still wanted everyone to know how to drive. Problem is I have a seizure disorder and I really didn't want to disclose that to them. I stay alert and everything durning them, but feel kind of odd. Not so bad I wouldn't be able to do my job, but if I were to be driving I would have to pull over (its partial seizures, I stay aware enough to do that and can still do simple tasks during them). Should I tell them this info if they call me back to offer the job? My neuro hasn't reported me to the DMV, so I don't know how they would react or it they would then report me (can they do that?). Would that get my EMT licensing revoked? I really didn't want to drive in the first place because I get lost easily (I pretty much have directional dyslexia, so I even get lost in my city even though I have lived there for all 23 years of my life), then I panic when I get lost. I mentioned that part to them and they said that they have a few employees like that and it wasn't a problem. I was hoping that that would take care of me not driving, but apparently not. So how do I deal with this? Should I tell them about my condition or just leave it out? I've never had one while driving and they are fairly well controlled with meds. But driving the ambulance with it scares me, if I don't tell them and it happens, I could put a patient at risk because I couldn't get them to a hospital quickly due to me having to pull over and recover, I could lose the job, get my license (both EMS and drivers) revoked.

Thanks for any input! Oh, and just as a side note, I am not photosensitive or sound sensitive, so lights and sirens won't be a problem for me. I just get them whenever for unknown reasons.


I respect what you want to do.  I worked in a police dept.  I enjoyed the police dept and it had a lot of stresses. I had a driver's license at that time.  I loved the work.  My neurologist noticed that I was stressed out.  My seizures were still under control.  He told me sure to get plenty of rest, and exercise and eat the right foods.   The third year while working I had a seizure while fingerprinting a drunk.  It was on tape and the jailer was there.  My neurologist told me to get into a less stressful job.  I did.  I worked in the medical field as a neurodiagnostic tech. for 15 years at a Medical Center.  I am on disability at this time and live on a different Coast.  If you keep yourself even keel, everyone has their trigger points.  I ended up still helping people and I did it in the medical field in a less stressful situation.  Your field might be ok.  Each person has to try it out maybe there is something in the EMT field in training or in the ER that you can do not dealing in the the ambulance driving.  I know in the Police Dept. we were one man units and if your car was not working you had to take care of it yourself and radio for assistance and have the public stare at you!  Take it easy !  Pat yourself on the Back!  As my algebra teacher used to say "Life is a Festival!"   I wish you luck!

Iv been a EMT for two years and I have had epilepsy for 1 year. It all depend on what type and what triggers it. Don't ever let people tell you that you will never be a EMT. Even though I am a EMT even I didn't know what was going on suffering with a concussion I was still working,I have a problem of asking for help. If this is what you really want to do go for it, but keep in mind that every one in EMS will know what happens if you relapse. You'll be happier doing a job you want not just a job that will get you through. Ask your doctor to wright a note stating that you have been seizure free for this long and he has no prob as well as a updated EEG.Yes there will be people out there that don't believe you should do this but prove them wrong. Best wishes and good luck

After failing to get a job normally in my academic field, I tried to get a job through the state rehabilitation department (the unemployment rate was very high then). My rehab counselor wanted full knowledge of my skills, handicaps, etc.; when I described my partial seizures to him, he expressed disbelief, in that he never heard of such things before, yet he then commented that those types of things happen to everybody. He demanded me to have proof of severe disabilities to be eligible for job assistance thru rehab.

When he finally had enough proof, I was the one to express concern about accommodations for jobs requiring driving (then, I had minor directional dyslexia, now, 21 years later, it is major) and for other safety concerns, since my seizures were slowly becoming worse (I was severely biting my tongue every other month in increasing intensity and frequency with the partials that messed up my voice in situational instances). Then I was told I had better stick to my speech problems and he would weigh the safety problems with jobs requiring driving and other dangers.

To cut the story short, driving for dead-end jobs that paid half the minimum wage was perfectly safe, yet driving for better paying jobs with career potential was way to dangerous, and so on for other safety factors. When I got proof of my career abilities thru evidence from court cases with federal employers, and I expressed interest in more challenging jobs such as these federal jobs that were required to provide accommodation, especially with the state rehabs assistance, my disabilities that were so slight as to disqualify me for rehab became disabilities so intense as to disqualify me for rehab, and I was kicked out the door after walking in a few months before.

So, it is best to err on the side of safety, but the odds are against any accommodation, especially if other individuals are vying for the job. I have stopped driving; for accommodation, the evidence requirements to prove you should not always be required to drive are just as intense as those to prove you can drive in federal and state bureaucrat land.

Good Luck, Carefully consider your options, and don't let anything discourage you from making a wise choice.

Thanks for the replies! I decided that I will tell the company about my problem. After thinking about it more myself and reading here and on an EMT forum, I think it would be best. I was told by another EMT that they might make some accomodations for me if I am upfront about it rather than hiding it. He said that if I hid it and had one on the job and they found out (only a matter of time before it happens) they would be pretty upset about it....more upset than if I were to just be upfront about it in the first place.

And I think I knew my answer before I even asked it, I just didn't want to admit it because I have never let my seizure disorder stand in the way of anything. But I realized I would be letting it "get in the way" less if I were to go ahead and tell them. That and I don't even want to imagine the mess it would cause if I were to have one while driving the ambulance. For one, it would delay getting the patient to where they needed to be (which wouldn't be so bad seeing as I would probably be doing non-emergency transports, but still that could create a big mess for me and the company) and second, it could cost me the job and licensing (both drivers and EMT).

If you are interested in health care, you might consider switching from EMT to nursing.  Most jobs for nurses don't include riding around in an ambulance, but some do.  There are lots of interesting areas to specialize, even on neuro units in some hospitals or clinics.  It would be more school, but it can be very interesting.  I am a nurse as a result of my seizures. I have had partial complex seizures at work and while talking to the MDs, funny is none of them ever noticed since they were partial seizures. 

Thanks for the input. I plan on going to medical school in a couple of years, so I chose the EMT route for something to do in the meantime. I wish I had chose nursing back when I started college so that I could have gotten a job with that until I got in. If I were to go now, by the time I finished it would be time for me to enter med school-so I wouldn't even get do much.

If getting the job doesn't work out I can always try with the local hospitals as an aide or something like a nurses assistant. That would work and I would still be doing something in medicine until I get in to med school. I don't have any training in anything else and my bachelors degree isn't in anything very useful (I chose "Liberal Studies" as my major, pretty much a degree about nothing in particular, I just chose which classes I wanted that added up to enough credits to graduate) for a job.


I am very impressed w/ your decision.  When I was a Neurodiagnostic Tech.  I went back to school again to get my Nursing Degree in a City College.  I already had taken classes similar to what you have taken.  Human diseases, pharmacology, Anatomy and Physiology, etc. some of these classes were credited to my degree and some were not but I understood the classes and  I got another degree.  I worked during this time period.  I, now, help out by taking calls for an insurance firm at home.

My dear one, Welcome to the world of EMS.  I too have epilepsy (at this point it is uncontrolled so I have transitioned into a different aspect of life within the EMS world) and as one who has literally done EVERY job within the EMS community let me tell you, there is more to the job than the back of an ambulance, however that IS where most people start.

Let me start off by saying this - I started my career ironically because I developed epilepsy due to a head injury.  Was a competitive horse rider (thus the user name) on a scholarship for riding - fell off, head injury, epilepsy and revealing it led to a loss of scholarship.  Rather rude welcoming to the world.  Thought I would get my EMT because I taught lessons and also worked at a farm that it would take 30 min plus for an ambulance to get there if anything ever happened.  Well, I fell in love with it, and 13 years later I love it as much today as I did the day I started.

For employers, I started off my career not telling anybody because I had my license, was controlled on a single med, and that was that.  Things changed though when in 2004 my coworkers showed up to my wrecking my car head on with a semi and having to reveal I had epilepsy.  Yes it was due to me having a seizure at the wheel.  28 hours on, no sleep.  Not a smart move.  Spent a year off and then returned quite content to be able to go back to my job - nobody really thought I could.  Came back and was honest about the epilepsy and my chief was great with accomodations.  First rule - no driving, ever period, end of story.  It was reported to the state EMS board and now on every recert cycle, I have to apply for an exemption which is a pain in the patootie because in our state to have a cert, you MUST have a driver's license.  Don't have to drive, just the license.  Also, if I'd gotten less than 4 hours of sleep they either had someone drive me home, or I stayed and got sleep for a few hours before leaving.

I moved on from that service and from then on was always honest with my employers that I had epilepsy and that I would not drive an ambulance ever.  This honesty was good and bad as with everything, I had some coworkers that really watched out for me and were great, and I had some (one in particular that refused to ever work with me) that were terrible.  Yeah it sucked sometimes, but I got through it.  Ironically, my being open about it led to me finding out many other people that were in EMS and had epilepsy and were hiding it asked my advice on how to talk to their employers.

When my epilepsy was well controlled, I worked actively on the truck, in an industrial setting, even got to fly for two years.  I worked hard with my doc who was extremely supportive and actually eased my employers fears by talking with them and provides the documentation I need to keep my certifications.  However, due to my own stupidity of pushing way too hard, getting too little sleep, and not being the greatest about taking my meds at a consistent time (or even close to it), I lost my dream job of flying.  Had a massive seizure and ended up in status, sedated and intubated for a month.  Had a stroke in the process and left with left sided weakness and central pain syndrome.  My driver's license is gone and I've had poor control of the seizures ever since.  I've since transitioned into being an instructor and preceptor for new medics.  I love it, but not a day goes by that I don't miss being active in the field.  I'm trying to get that back, but I'm having to accept the reality that day may never come and it hurts because it was due to my own fault.

In closing I'll say this - there's many places to use your EMT.  Docs offices, hospitals, industrial rehab, etc.  It's no longer just work on an ambulance.  If you are well controlled, get a statement from your doc that you are OK to work in the field (TN certs actually require this statement of everyone, not just those with a health problem).  It will only help you.  Second BE HONEST !  As so many have said here, if you don't disclose and they find out they will be quite angry.  I had some VERY unhappy people to deal with following my wreck because it's something that could have been prevented.  Also make sure that you take your meds when you should, that you get enough sleep, and have a life outside of the job to destress.  This job is extremely stressful and can and WILL take over your life if you let it.  It seems OT is always needed, and well, we never make enough so it's tempting, but take care of yourself.  Also understand you may need to transition to other areas as your life or seizures change, so just be aware of that and okay to make that change.

 Best of luck to you, I wish you only the best. 

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