As a student in the medical field and current EMT and Wildland Firefighter, emergency medical care is what I have come to know as my daily routine and way to support myself and my family. It is a few short moments of intense action and adrenaline rushes followed by long periods of paperwork, laughs with coworkers that are closer than family and preparing for the next call. Emergency medical care is essential because it the foundation of what I like to call the medical pyramid. Without this foundation, the patient cannot move forward to a better quality of life. If these fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters never make it from the field to the hospital, how can they get their illness or injury taken care of so that they can be able to return to their families.
As an EMT in a rural fire department, I have to be a jack of all trades. I have to be strong enough to show no worry or doubt while caring for a sick child in the arms of a mother and I have to be patient enough to fix a troublesome piece of equipment for the 4th time. I have to be able to move on emotionally from finding people overdosed on their bathroom floors so that I can immediately prevent a wildfire from burning down a neighborhood as my crew is toned out before we can even finish putting our unit back in service. In a rural fire department, you may be 40 minutes away from the emergency but you are the most immediate resource. “There is no 912” as many crew members joke about in reference to themselves being the responding 911 unit. Many times, you are the only resource available and backup is too far out to be beneficial for the patient so you must be confident and capable with your skills. Every action you take must be decisive and efficient as the patient may not have time on their side. You must fall back and what you know and what you know is learned through hours of training and preparation. This is a lifestyle that many cannot live. It is one where some thrive and many fail.
To prepare for this lifestyle I constantly train. To become complacent in your skills is to fail both as a healthcare provider and your patients. It is letting your crew down as they expect you to preform and have their backs but end up carrying your weight. I have learned that in this field, you must be willing and humble enough to be taught by both people senior and junior to you. This is how you become a better provider. It is teaching what you know so that not only do you reinforce your skills but you also build and strengthen your crew’s capabilities and effectiveness. Your knowledge should not just end at what the hospital dictates what you can do. You should learn and understand the responsibilities of those higher up as well so that you can assist when it is needed and be one step ahead. No one is born with the knowledge to perform this line of work. It is something that must be shaped and molded through the right attitude and desire to become better.
The area where the classroom meets the field is an amazing place. As a student at the University of Arizona pursing a degree in Physiology, using what is learned about the human body in upper division Physiology classes is directly related to my work in the field as an EMT. From studying about the cardiovascular system and learning about EKG’s to actually placing leads on a patient and calling in a helicopter for transport after it is determined the critical condition of the patient; the books and the field are directly related. No patient is exactly the same and you must keep an open mind of the situation. You cannot get tunnel vision on scene because this could be fatal for the person you are trying to save. Whereas the book and field do meet and agree most of the time, you must also trust your gut feeling and read your patient and not the monitor. This gut feeling is what is developed from experience being in the area where the books meet the field repeatedly and knowing when you aren’t.
To be the best possible healthcare provider, you must know when it is time to call it quits and take a breather. This job has the highest emotional highs as well as the lowest of lows. It will physically and mentally beat you down both immediately and in the long term. Waking up in the middle of the night and having your heart beat as fast as possible after tones have dropped has shown to cause increased rates of heart disease in emergency responders. This must be balanced out with ways to decompress and relax. For each healthcare provider, the way to recover after long hard shifts is different. For me, I find peace and quiet is always welcome along with sports and physical activity. Recovery is essential in order to remain sharp and effective and it is also beneficial so that you can understand to live and enjoy life and not just save it.