As a nursing student at the University of Connecticut I have spent countless hours in the classroom and in front of a screen or textbook studying. These countless hours in my eyes are growth towards providing a better and higher level of emergency medical care for my future patients. I have been involved in pre-hospital emergency medicine with a local volunteer ambulance association since I was 14 years old, not even old enough to drive but old enough to respond to emergency medical calls alongside Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) and Paramedics. This was the beginning of my drive to always learn more so I could provide the best possible care for any patient I am privileged to care for.
Now as an EMT I am working directly with Advanced EMTs and Paramedics, as well as by myself, to respond to emergency medical calls and provide patient care. The skills I have learned are only the tip of the iceberg for me as I plan to continue my training to receive certifications as an AEMT, ACLS, PALS, PHTLS, become licensed as a Paramedic, complete nursing school as a registered nurse, and eventually work as a critical care flight nurse on an emergency medical helicopter service.
There are stressful, heart-breaking calls, there always have been and always will be. I have spent time both on shift, and off shift, thinking about those patients I couldn’t save, those families I couldn’t help, and most often I am thinking about the patient I have yet to help. The patient that could arrive in my life at any possible moment, in any location. I need to be prepared for that patient. The patient I am least expecting or I am most worried about is the patient that needs me the most. I have seen in my time on the ambulance the difference healthcare professionals can make in the lives of patients, not just through quality emergency medical care but through compassion and empathy.
Basic Life Support (BLS) is critical for all healthcare providers, from nurses to doctors to dentists in caring for patients in cardiac arrest. I am a firm believer that Basic Life Support should be taught and required of all healthcare providers, as well as CPR training for the general population. Early bystander CPR and AED use is the largest predictor of cardiac arrest survival and return of spontaneous circulation (ROSC). The following crucial steps to survival follow the American Heart Association’s Chain of Survival and include high quality and early BLS and ACLS care while being transported to post-cardiac arrest care in a tertiary care center intensive care unit.
Being a nursing student is difficult, but nothing can prepare you for performing high-quality team-focused CPR on a patient at 2am in their bedroom with their entire family crying and yelling while you do everything physically possible to save the man or woman, father or mother, brother or sister in front of you. Emergency medical care works. It has been proven with research, a large amount coming from our colleagues on the battlefield, that the tools and techniques we use to care for our patients works. This cannot always change the outcome. There will be patients you cannot save. There will be things you will never know or understand. But it is my calling and my responsibility to do everything possible to change the outcome more positively for my patient and to seek to understand as much as possible. I cannot care properly for my patients if I don’t take care of myself and prepare for the worst.
In the next two years as I continue to work as an EMT, study to be an AEMT, and continue into my clinical rotations for nursing school I will spend hundreds of hours studying a textbook, practicing medication administration, and sitting in classrooms. But it will all be worth it. If after all these hours I am able to affect the life of one patient, family member, coworker, or person then I have succeeded. I will have succeeded in the most genuine way possible, to be the best part of someone’s worst day.
My advice for students entering the medical field, especially those interested in emergency or critical care medicine, is to work hard. One of my preceptors on the ambulance was known for explaining how your certifications and licenses don’t mean anything when you are helping a patient. I have found this to be true regardless of the acuity of the patient’s needs, whether they are a level 1 trauma patient on death’s doorstep or a frail elderly woman who needs assistance getting into bed. When you are providing care it is all about who you are, how well you prepared for that moment, and what you are made of. It has nothing to do with receiving a piece of paper, a certification or other accolade, but has everything to do with your heart and your experiences. Please give it your all, because it might just save a life.