“Do not, under any circumstances, wear anything suggesting you are an EMT,” My partner told me upon hearing who my A&P professor would be. “No uniforms, no t-shirts, no job shirts. None of it. She hates EMT’s. She finds that out, I swear to you, she will make your life a living hell.”
I told him I wouldn’t. I figured he was probably overreacting; but when I got ready for my first class, I made certain I wore nothing that even remotely hinted at my line of work. When I got to class, I found a girl wearing her private EMS uniform sitting at a bench seat. I introduced myself, and we quickly became friends and lab partners.
It didn’t take long for me to see why my partner had warned me about keeping my career a secret. During one of our breaks, a kid started talking about a car crash he was in recently, and mentioned the ambulance ride.
“EMT’s are people who couldn’t qualify for nursing or medical school,” Our professor matter-of-factly sniffed.
Oh. Well okay then.
I never made mention of my work. My lab partner, however, showed up to class regularly in her uniform, as she came off shift just in time to scramble over to the lecture. To my surprise (and confusion/disgust), I noticed a weird double standard. When a test was passed back, my partner asked why one of her answers was wrong. The teacher simply stated, “If you’d studied more, you would know why.” However, if I asked a question, I would get a cold, somewhat confusing response. It was something though, even if it was just a convoluted, highly cerebral answer. More than my partner appeared to be getting anyway.
A few weeks into class, this double standard came to a head. A nearby city experienced a natural disaster, and resources were pulled from the surrounding areas. One of said resources was my lab partner, who was held over for hours after her shift ended, causing her to miss class. Now, we were taking an accelerated class. Missing one day was the rough equivalent of missing 1.5 weeks of a regular class. When my partner showed up for the next lecture, the professor chewed her out for missing a class and not taking her studies seriously. The EMT explained that she was sent out of her district for this disaster, and it was something that could not be helped. Our professor shrugged her shoulders. When asked if she could spend time with the teacher after class, our professor said that she would not make such concessions for people who didn’t take her class seriously. At the end of lecture, my partner gave me a hug good bye, saying she was dropping the class.
“I can’t afford this. I’m losing money by turning down shifts for this class. Getting any help here is like pulling teeth. She is probably going to fail me anyway. I’d rather cut my losses, get some of my tuition back, and get back to work. It’s not fair,” She told me.
Class continued on, but a fire burned inside me.
On the day of the final, I walked into class in my full duty uniform. The professor handed me my final exam, all warmth and smiles. When I returned the completed test to her, she smiled.
“You’re a firefighter? How noble,” She said, noting my fire department patch on my arm.
“No, I’m an EMT at a fire department,” I evenly replied.
“Oh, and how long has this been going on?” All the warmth was gone from her voice. And what an odd response…like I told her I’d been cheating on her or something.
“Over a year now.”
“Is this for medical experience until you get into nursing school?”
“Well…I don’t want to speak for the future. But I really like EMS. And I’d like to stay in it for as long as I can.”
“Oh,” She wrinkled her nose. She shook her head and let out a disapproving sigh that just said, “What a shame.”
I passed that class with a 91, thankyouverymuch. I hold that memory with a certain pride. But what makes it better? I was on my way to my nursing class the other day, coffee in one hand, notebook in the other, backpack on my shoulders, student scrubs on my back. My A&P I professor came around the corner just before I went into my classroom. She looked me up and down, noting my scrubs. I nodded in acknowledgment. She nodded back.
Score one for EMS.