2/17/19: Life, Death, and Free Trips to the Hospital

Howdy Band-Aiders,

I could patronize you all with another apology for being gone so long…but I won’t do that to you all. You don’t need another platitude from another stranger in your life haha. It’s been a busy few weeks. Between learning pharmacology, first skills training labs, and my first few ALS ride alongs, it’s been a mad house for me. The school I attend expects us not only to learn the National Registry standards for paramedics but I also have to keep up with the San Diego County protocols that tend to be different fro NR in a lot of ways…fun. But school is school. Drugs are a bear to learn, which I believe is the experience of pretty much every medic student who’s ever existed. IVs are cool but I felt like a complete asshole when I blew through my friend’s vein on my second attempt. Batting .500…like Barry Bonds with a drug box but significantly less cool and significantly less paid. All in all, I’ve found a rhythm for school that I think will take me through to the end of it…or so I hope.

The main thing I wanted to talk about today though is the real world experience and how important I think it is for people to find someone they can talk to about the crap we see. Now for the sake of HIPPA, I won’t be going into the details of any of the calls I’ve run (please don’t QI me SD County), but I will give you some take aways from them. The Fire Departments I’ve been running with have been amazing at integrating me, teaching me, and giving me the chance to grow out of my BLS shell by starting to run calls. I can’t say enough how grateful I am to my fire medic preceptors and the other firefighters who are vesting their time in me becoming a good medic. In these last three weeks, I’ve seen a good majority of the gambit from sepsis to seizures, to trauma and to psych patients. People are interesting and it’s an honor to be invited in to do my best to make a crappy situation better. I think that’s something we have to remember, no matter how tired or beat down you are, we are there to make things better. Sometimes that’s the whole gambit of drugs, tubes, and IVs…and sometimes that’s just holding a hand, giving a smile, and talking to people like you give a damn about what’s going on with them. Sometimes all that little old lady needs is someone to talk to them because their family doesn’t anymore. Sometimes that homeless guy just wants someone to not treat them like a piece of garbage. Sometimes that demented 90-year old wants someone to not just write them off as a piece of meat on death’s door. Sometimes people just want you to be nice….I don’t ever want to forget that.

Equally important to me now is the need to be able to offload the things you are feeling somewhere. We work in a high-stress world where you are expected to be professional, to put your personal feelings on the back burner and be strong for your patients. All of that is right and good; wouldn’t do anyone good if the medic on scene broke down and cried when someone’s life/livelihood is on the line. But we can’t just keep it all bottled in. I’ve come to understand that you need to take care of yourself in order to help others. That means taking the day off away from the books and the drugs and the charts. That means exercising, eating right, and keeping it to one beer. That mean’s finding someone you can talk to and cry to if you need it. It means when all the tubes and monitors are put away and you take off your gloves to walk away from the CPR you just did on young woman who shouldn’t have been hanging in her garage in the first place that you recognize that these things don’t go away. Talk to somebody. It’s not weakness to recognize that these things affect you. You are only human after all. Life is fragile and death is only a step away from us at all times. It’s a sobering thought but for me it also is a motivating factor. It makes me want to be the best medic I can be in order to give everyone I’m called to care for the best fighting chance they can have to cling to life and crawl back to us. I recognize that not all people are going to be saved…but if it’s my skills that will make the difference, then I will be damned if I won’t be ready for it. For them…WE are here for them.

And for any of my fellow EMTs/Medic Students/Medics out there ever need to talk…feel free to message me through here. If not me, please reach out to the folks at the Code Green campaign, they will always be there for you.

Till next time…be safe out there everyone.

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1/27/18: “But You Gotta Have Friends”

Depending on how old you are, this tittle either brought Bette Middler to your mind or Shrek…don’t worry…I won’t tell anyone which one you thought. Anyways, howdy band-aiders and I hope all has been well. This week hasn’t been as stressful as the first one going into our big BLS protocols test, but still a lot of ground to cover. For any of you that have taken an A&P course and data dumped it like I did…go back and review it like your life depends on it! Ok not life, but your grade will depend on it. And for those of you about to take A&P prior to school, take REALLY and I mean REALLY good notes so you can review prior to starting school…trust me…it’ll help. Crash Course on Youtube (not endorsed…yet) really helps along with Khan Academy and A&P for Dummies. Whatever it takes, brush up really hard. We have our first block exam mostly on A&P…A&P…ok I think I’ve said A&P enough………..A&P.

Well today’s lesson from me is you gotta make friends. Even if you are the world’s biggest introvert dispatcher or something (why you would be in medic school is beyond me but hey different strokes for different folks), I strongly believe you cannot make it through medic school alone. Part of understanding my own strengths and weaknesses when it comes to academics, I ALWAYS function better when I’m learning in study groups. But beyond that, there is always going to be someone out there smarter/better at something than you are. News flash kids…you aren’t Heath Ledger…I mean Superman…yeah superman. Form study groups early and put in the extra time. Seek out those in your class who are better at certain subjects than you are. Suck at A&P? (Ahhhh there it is again) Find the guy like I did who has a bachelor’s in Human Physiology. Can’t stick an IV? Find the gal who can get blood out of a rock (or Shmitty the heroine addict down the street…don’t try his product but he might be able to help teach you how to get it since he can give him self an EJ no problem). My point is you have to keep your ego in check and learn as much as you can from not only your instructors, but your fellow students. Everyone has different strengths. Plus, you will get the chance to shine and teach others from your strengths giving you a confidence boost and further solidifying your abilities. So find your friend or make some friends and wade through this nightmare together (make sure to toss the ring into the fire when you’re done).

Good night band aiders. Be strong, be safe, be brave…don’t die. I hope all of your shifts are nice and QUIET.

1/21/19: Will Thoust Endeth Me Now?

I think I’ve been working at this white board for so long that I’m starting to grow roots. Howdy band-aiders! I apologize for the the week absence of posts but I am now officially in the full swing of medic school. And with that has come an intense workload right off the bat. That being said, I may have to change this to a weekly blog and recap all the things that have happened each week. The amount of studying is enormous and has so far left me exhausted at the end of each day. My creativity jar (don’t ask why it’s a jar) is pretty empty. So that’s my new promise (I know I suck at keeping these blog promises), weekly posts.

Now how did this first week go? Well…it was like getting smacked in the face with a bat…and that bat was swung by Barry Bonds in his prime…on meth…with a rocket propelling device to help accelerate the arc…with spikes…

You get the idea.

I will say this one more time for the people in the back…BE SURE YOU ARE ABSOLUTELY READY TO COME HERE. Our opening week started with a 120 page chapter that was a full review of Anatomy & Physiology and were informed that we would be having a fill in the blank test of EVERY SINGLE BLS protocol in the county. So for my aspiring crazies…make sure you start NOW with studying all of your BLS protocols verbatim. Start reviewing your A&P every day if you can. Consider going back to school to be a banker…you know…the basics. Our instructor staff has so far been pretty awesome on an uplifting note. Our first nurse educator is funny and has made our classes go by less painfully than they could have gone. Lots of technology involved in this process too. For those who are unaware, the NREMT requires all medic students to build a portfolio of every skill they train on throughout the duration of school. Luckily we are having all of this digitally recorded instead of having to walk around with 4in binders full of hundreds of forms…

All in all, it’s been a heck of a welcome to medic school and I’m looking forward to sinking my teeth into pathophysiology this coming week. Have a great week y’all and feel free to shoot me questions anytime. As always, be strong, be safe, be brave…don’t die.

1/14/18: Calm Before the Shitstorm

Howdy band-aiders, and when I say howdy, I mean howdy to the like 4 of you that actually read what I put here. I apologize for the break in posts (sincerely this time). Between family and then being sick for nearly a week straight, I’ve been pretty much out of commission. But! Things are about to get started so back to regularly scheduled programming…

Welp…here we are…the night before the first day of medic school. Not gonna lie, a little nerve wracking to be completely honest. I have everything straightened out. Uniforms? Check. Books and other school supplies? Check. Boots shined? Check. Existential questioning of my life choices? Check. Tomorrow is going to be interesting. I keep imagining that things will be terrible from day 1. Massive exam on BLS stuff first thing. But it can’t be that bad right?

Right?…

Welp, we shall see. Stay tuned Band-aiders…about to be turbulent for a while.

1/2/19: Disorientation Day

Howdy Band-Aiders! Happy New Year, New Me Resolutions that will be broken in 2 weeks season. I hope you all had safe and enjoyable holidays and aren’t in crippling, life-altering debt. Personally, I’m so thankful the holidays are over…driving a 3 hours round trip multiple times in a week to see family was getting pretty old. Plus family, as much as I love em, can be exhausting. Anyways, its good to be back and writing for you all (or at least for myself) and to be getting into the swing of things.

So today was orientation day for my medic program. The moment I got there, there seemed to be a nervous energy in the room; probably from all my new classmates contemplating the reality that medic school is about to fall on us like a piano from Tom & Jerry (Gen Z, if you don’t know who those two are you need to GTS right meow.) The nice thing about my school is that they encouraged us to bring along our loved ones/supporters so they can see first hand what we are getting into and not assume we have become some neurotic shut-ins mumbling about med dosage calculations and rhythm strips. Had us all line up to turn in our prerequisite paperwork and then hand us the mother of all paramedic texts, Nancy Caroline’s “Emergency Care in the Streets.” Throughout all the college courses that I’ve taken thus far in my life, I’ve never had one that required a text book that comes in 2 FREAKING VOLUMES. Saying this book is thick is an understatement. Gonna have to be careful to not knock it off my desk or it might go through my floor and take out my neighbor’s cat or something. Jeez man. Aside from that, it was the usual signing of paperwork this and that and getting uniform orders and what not. I did learn a lot about the college I hadn’t know from my short time in EMT school there; pretty cool to know the back story to how the school to where it is. Following that, we sat for a long presentation by Captain G (more on him to come in following posts but he is the coordinator for the program) all about how we are gonna hate our lives for the next 14 months. Looking around the room at my classmate’s faces I got my visual presentation of medic school before it has even started. A bunch of people were exhibiting the classic signs of mild panic attacks…hell one kid looked like he was in full blown shock. This is an intimidating process for sure, but this is why I recommend for any one of you crazies thinking about coming down this same rabbit hole to do your research and learn what you are getting into. If you’re not ready for 11 major exams, 2 final exams, daily quizzes, and grades SIMMS, which is all just the first block of school, then I suggest you wait and gain more experience first. If you haven’t read it yet, go on Amazon and order Kevin Grange’s “Lights & Sirens.” He illustrates his time in paramedic school in LA which will give you a general understanding about what is involved in the making of a paramedic.

Once the presentation was over, we were dismissed and allowed to go cry ourselves to sleep for the next 13 days before this nightmare even starts. One thing that stuck with me though from Captain G’s presentation is that you have to be prepared to make the necessary sacrifices to be successful in this program. I am. I will not fail; failure is not an option. I’m gonna come out the other side of this thing. Bruised and an anxiety-stricken mess for sure but out the other side none-the-less. As Kevin Grange said, “the quickest way out is through.” Let’s do this.

12/21/18: Mentorship/Leadership and a Word About Those Trippy TAH/LVAD Patients

Ok, only 3 days in between posts; getting slightly better at this. “The title of this one is pretty boring compared to the others.” Yes, I know, something about fatigue and holiday shenanigans/obligations is wearing down my creativity I guess. But, you didn’t come here to listen to me whine…but it is my blog so in the eternal words of Lesley Gore, it’s my party and I’ll [whine] if I want to.

One thing I’ve always enjoyed about the military and now the first responder community is the fact there is so many opportunities to grow and develop as leader and/or a mentor. I’m holy unashamed to say I’ve messed up a lot along the way to where I am today and I still have a long way to go to get to where I want to be. The reason I have managed to be as successful as I have has been in large part to the mentors and leaders I’ve had along the way both good and bad. Well all know the good leaders; those bright men and women who have shown us what it looks like to be effective practitioners of our craft. They take the time to develop us as we go along with both kind encouragement and tough love. They make us want to be better not just for our patients, but for them and ourselves. Then there’s the leaders we all…well we all would like to take a long walk off a short pier. Unfortunately, we all have to deal with those people. I’ve noticed that EMS, just like the Marine Corps, has a predisposition to promote people who have simply been there long enough. You know those people, the ones who always bitch and moan about their job, but they never seem to leave or improve themselves to find ways to move to a different position. The ones who are not terrible but not great at their jobs, who never find joy in any of the work they do and always find a way to try to do the bare minimum. In most industries, these people would stagnate or be fired eventually. But in EMS, due to a myriad of factors, a lot of great EMTs and medics eventually make their way off to bigger and better leaving those who simply have held on long enough to eventually take leadership. This not always the case but is unfortunately seen wayyyyyyyyy too often. Now, instead of punching these people in the face (not recommended) or tearing them down verbally till their souls are left raw (entertaining, but also not recommended), I suggest learning from these people as well. “But Panda! I want to throw Bob out the back of the patient compartment on the 5 free way doing 80 every day! How am I supposed to learn from him??” I know, I know, trust me…I know the feeling. But there is a lot you can learn from Bob. All the things you don’t like that he does, from him showing up late, to how he talks to the probies…learn from him…and do your damn best to not be like him. I’ve learned almost more from leaders I didn’t like than from leaders that I did.

Now all that being said, YOU can start being a leader today. You don’t even have to be an official leader with a title, a badge, and a overlarge coffee mug. The largest hurdle, arguably, in medic school is internship. From my understanding, by that point we are expected to be well tuned technicians in applied medicine and are developing our scene management and leadership skills. Start now! Show humility and seek out leaders in your organization or life and talk with them about what works for them. Read books from past leaders. Teach and mentor the new guys/gals as they come onto your service. Step out and become a teaching assistant or instructor at an EMT program. Volunteer at your EMS explorer’s post or other youth programs. Leadership is like a muscle, you have to exercise it. You can even do this in your own social circle. Reach out to your friends and see how they are doing. Be a leader in your family and plan an event. Whatever it takes for you to get comfortable in wearing your big boy/girl pants and take charge of a situation. Medics are the medical leaders on scene and back at the station. Strive to improve this skill set as much as you do your technical knowledge of drugs and EKGs and whatnot. It will pay dividends later.

Final word for the night…total artificial hearts are freaking gnarly! *Nerd Alert* I came across the subsection in my protocol book about this growing population of patients and man I was fascinated today. I lost many precious minutes on Youtube and Google looking up everything about these things. Super trippy and awesome that science has come so far in searching for ways to save people’s lives. It’s gonna be an interesting day when I finally have one of these patients. No palpable pulses, no blood pressure readings, “humming” heart sounds, and low O2 sats…as if this job wasn’t hard enough…

Till next time band-aiders! Be strong, be safe, be brave…don’t die…