Are You Taught To Hate Your Field?

Why on earth is the healthcare provider education system so hell bent on burning people out before they’ve even got their license in hand?

At least that’s the way it seems. Maybe it’s just a regional thing. Maybe all the schools in my area are teaching using similar techniques, and all the teachers subscribe to a similar mindset. Or maybe I’ve officially lost my mind (I am certainly not ruling that out).

This post is going to mostly be about nursing school, because that’s what I’ve experienced. But, any new-grad paramedic I know has talked about similar problems.

For any of you that actually read my rambling, babbling, nonsensical drawl, you know that I am unhappy in nursing school. Yes, I do feel absolutely miserable. Every week, I find myself up in the wee hours of the morning on the verge of a mental meltdown. Every drive to school is filled with anxiety, and every drive home is filled with discouragement. It feels almost like a trap some days. The further into the program I get, the worse I feel, but the more obligated I feel to finish it. At my worst, I find myself panicky, physically sick, unable to sleep, and waking up with horribly graphic and disturbing nightmares. Sometimes I start wondering why I ever decided to go into nursing. In my stress, I start to look for other careers I could do. Maybe I’ll find my calling in something else. In the past, I’ve considered going to paramedic school. Currently, I have some wild aspiration to go into law enforcement…which I’m sure would be greatly discouraged by anyone who actually knows me. I have to stop and wonder if these aspirations are real, or if I’m just looking into them because it’s something other than what I’m going through right now.

I’m in an associate’s degree program, so it’s only 2 years long. Most paramedic programs are about that long as well. It’s a short amount of time in which to learn a lot of important things. It’s not like earning a typical degree…after we get out of school, our decisions could greatly impact the lives of others. The stakes are very high, and it’s incredibly important to learn as much as we can in the short time that we have. Maybe these programs are just too short to be reasonable. I find that students in these shorter healthcare degrees/certification programs are just so stressed out and inundated with schoolwork that they find themselves discouraged or disliking the career they are about to enter. It’s heartbreaking to work so hard towards something, and then to be almost directed to hate it.

Maybe I just don’t love my potential career enough. Maybe I’m not dedicated enough. And like I mentioned before, maybe it’s purely a regional thing. Regardless, something should change here. Maybe it’s just me. Or maybe it’s the healthcare system. Or perhaps something in between.

Are any of you having problems similar to this? Or did I really just plain old lose my mind.

The Sunflower Seed Catastrophe

I play favorites. Meaning I have a favorite ambulance to drive. The brakes require the right amount of pressure for me to stop the truck comfortably. The steering isn’t too soft or too hard. It’s a decent size truck to work with, and I can easily back it in almost anywhere. She’s my favorite, but she’s not perfect.

One of her imperfections, for instance, is the profound lack of cup-holders. Just a suggestion to any ambulance manufacturers out there–CUP-HOLDERS ARE VERY IMPORTANT. At least to me. In place of a cup-holder, we have this small caddy thing that we managed to stick between the flashlight-holders on the center console of the truck. It’s not ideal, but we’ve gotten used to it, and we make do.

My partner and I were sent on a transfer to Far Far Away Medical Center towards the end of a busy shift, so obviously I took my favorite ambulance. It was one of those shifts where you didn’t have any time to eat. When my partner, the patient, and I were stuck in an elevator, my stomach decided it was a good time to let out this 30 second long growl that probably caused a minor earthquake in the region. The patient looked at me and asked, “Hey, you alright there? Do you want me to ask the nurses to get you a sammich?”

Once we started back home, my partner and I whole-heartedly agreed to stop somewhere to get food for the ride back. My options are pretty limited, what with the gluten free diet and all. So I wound up getting a bag of sunflower seed kernels. It’d at least be something to put in my stomach and survive the drive home. As we made our way our to the truck, I quickly scarfed down a couple of handfuls of sunflower seeds. Once back in the ambulance, I set  the open bag in the little caddy thing, and started driving back home.

My partner and I chatted, as partners tend to do. And my partner decided he wanted to eat my food….also as partners tend to do. He reached over and went to pick up the bag without asking. He didn’t look down at the caddy (and sunflower seeds), trying what I can only assume was an attempt to be stealthy. Just as I asked him what he thought he was doing, he knocked over the entire caddy, and spilled my seeds EVERYWHERE. All over the floor, all over the console…just, everywhere. There was not a single stupid seed left for consumption in the bag.

It’s a good thing I like the guy. Because hunger does strange things to a person. And when the relief of hunger is stripped away right before your eyes, it does even stranger things. Like briefly make it okay in your mind to kick the offender out of a moving ambulance at highway speed. Then turn around and run over him.

Like I said…good thing I like the guy. And the M&M’s he offered as an apology/replacement.

Paramedic or RN?

Well, here we are again, internet friends. Back to the soul searching and looking for advice from my favorite anonymous third party!

Firstly, if you’ve been following my whining about nursing school, you know I’ve been dealing with several really mean individuals. I’m happy to report that most of them will not be in my class this coming semester. Yay! There’s something to be said about karma, I suppose. Well, that and hard work.

During my Christmas break from school, I picked up more hours at my department. Going back and being able to do something I love…that all by itself makes me happier. Plus, trying out my new ALS skills has been really exciting too. Anyway, with all of these additional hours, I’ve obviously been to area hospitals more often, and to the local nursing homes as well. It just seems to remind me more and more that EMS is where I belong.

That, combined with some major screw ups at my school (losing my tuition, for instance) is making me rethink the whole nursing thing. I’m planning on applying to transfer…the problem is, should I transfer into another nursing program? Stick with it? Bridge to paramedic later? Or scrap it, become a paramedic, and bridge to RN eventually? It seems like the RN-first path means I’ll have lots of years doing things I hate in order to get where I really want to be (pre-hospital medicine, although ER would be fine too). Paramedicine, however, means putting my time and energy into a field I love.

I understand the RN position would be more financially stable, and I would have the opportunity to change specialties and get out of the emergency scene if it gets to be too much for me. But the idea of being a paramedic still pulls at me. So, here we are. Paramedic? Or RN?

 

Damn You Autocorrect!

When you work in the middle of nowhere, you get sent on transfers to far-away places on a regular basis. “Far away” meaning one-way transport times that exceed an hour…sometimes it’s more like 2.5 hours. We find ways to keep ourselves entertained on the journey back to the station. We listen to the radio. We sing/screech along with the radio. We play a game called “find a radio station that comes in enough that we can pick out a few notes among the static.” We talk. We complain. We vent. We play long-car-ride games. Activities that, although fun, aren’t terribly productive. If we had a computer in the truck, we’d probably be more apt to do our reports on it…or at least get the narrative written up.

Every few weeks, we get those days that are absolutely ridiculous, and we are completely swamped in reports. So, some brave souls try to get the narratives done on some document software on their personal tablets or phones during the drive home. I’m not one of those brave souls. Partly because my stomach doesn’t like it when I try to read in moving vehicles. And partly because I am not very good at technology.

That whole speech-to-text thing never works out for me. If I say, “The patient complained of 7/10 sub-sternal chest pain after being chased by the fuzz for three blocks,” my speech-to-text would end up something like, “Patient blames several of them sub colonel apps for chest pain after dealing haste by the buzz funky hops.” And thanks to our good friend autocorrect, typing that same sentence would look like, “The patting complained of u/10 sub-streak chest pain after brunner. Badged. Y the fuzz for then blocks.” *

Being a young adult, there’s sort of this expectation that you just automatically know how to work these gadgets. I seriously don’t. It’s a miracle I can get my smart phone to do the things I can get it to do. I’m lucky I can find Facebook, my email, and write blog posts. Technology just isn’t my game. And recently, we found out that not all of my coworkers are infallible tech gods.

One medic wrote a report on some device that uses autocorrect. He meant to write, “18 gauge IV started in the right AC. Applied tegaderm.” Thanks to autocorrect, we got a version with much more bang, pop, and drama to it.

“18 gauge IV started in the right AC. Applied MEGADEATH.”

 

 

*Okay, so THAT might have been a smidge worse than usual. 


The Lucky Patch

I work with a paramedic who also teaches. He told me a story one day that inspired me.

Back in the day, he was teaching a paramedic class. It was tough, as good paramedic programs are, but the students were managing. Well, most of them. One student just wasn’t getting it. It wasn’t for lack of effort, or desire, or motivation. The guy worked his butt off, but he just wasn’t getting it. One day, he pulled his teacher aside. He wanted to be a paramedic so badly. There was nothing he wanted more. And yet, despite his best efforts, he was doing terribly in class. It was discouraging, to say the least.

The teacher thought it over. A couple of classes later, he pulled the student aside. He handed him a new, shiny, gold disco patch. That very thing this particular student craved. His eyes widened. Taking it cautiously, he offered a confused expression to the teacher.

“You can’t wear it. You can’t sew it to anything, or display it. You can’t be telling others you’re a paramedic, or giving that impression with this patch,” The teacher said. “But, you can have it in your pocket. You can know that it’s there. And, when times get tough, and you have a moment alone, you can take it out and look at it, and remind yourself why you’re doing this, and why you’re going to make it.”

The student did just that. He kept it in his pocket at school and during clinicals. When he was home, he kept it on his dresser. There were times that he doubted himself, for sure. There were rough nights of studying, long days of class, frustrating shifts of clinicals. But that patch helped him.  He did ultimately make it through paramedic school. Now, he can wear a gold patch on his arm.

 

Nursing school started last week. I have two 3-hour lectures a week, plus an 8-hour lab. When I’m not at school, I’m either driving, working, sleeping, or studying. Which would explain my lack of posts. And my soon-to-be lack of sanity. Things are stressful now, but certainly do-able. But I know it’s a matter of time before my faith in myself starts to wane. Before I start to wonder if I can do this, and how I’m ever going to make it. I look at my 13 textbooks, and the pages upon pages of notes I’ve already written. Once already, in the middle of a 100-page reading assignment (due 32 hours after it was assigned. Along with 15 pages of med math, 15 pages on cultural awareness, 40 pages of pharm, and 30 pages of nursing diagnoses), I began to wonder if this was ever going to end. And we’re only on week one. I have a long way to go.

But, that paramedic’s story stuck with me. I have a little pin that I fasten to the inside of my innermost pocket on my uniform. It has been with me at every class and every lab, and I plan on keeping it on me for the rest of my nursing school career. It’s just a little thing to keep me going, to keep me focused. Somewhere out there, way off in the distance, is a light at the end of the tunnel. In the meantime though, it’s nice to keep just a little torch by my side.

*image credit

Medic School: How to Trash the Back of an Ambulance 101

Paramedic school. It’s roughly a two-year program. It covers all sorts of topics. Cardiology. Pathophysiology. Anatomy & Physiology. How to Make a Huge Mess out of the Back of the Ambulance.

I’m certain they teach that last one as an actual module. Paramedics, I love you dearly and think you do a great job with patient care, but what is the deal here?? When we loaded the patient into the back of the ambulance together, everything was nice and organized. All the cabinets were closed, the floor had been swept, the trash can had been emptied…everything was good to go. After checking to make sure you didn’t need my help for anything, I got up front and drove us to the hospital. Apparently, sometime during transport, a tornado that ripped through a Welch-Allyn factory died out over the back of our ambulance. I open the doors, and an unopened bottle of activated charcoal rolls out of the truck. Stray EKG electrodes are all over the floor. There’s an OB kit in the airway seat, which troubles me, considering it was a male patient. There are a dozen little pieces of tape all over the overhead bars and under the cabinets. The meager collection of pens I had procured for the ambulance has been obliterated…all of which are either broken or lost forever. The box of large gloves has been torn open, and purple gloves are now everywhere. The monitor’s leads, BP cuff cable, and SPO2 cable are all jumbled and tied together in some sort of crafty, untangle-able Celtic knot. And, for good measure, unopened band-aids, 4×4 packets, and blood glucose test strips are scattered throughout the ambulance, as if part of the protocol for this patient required a ritual dance that involved aforementioned equipment being flung about wildly. Interesting sidenote: the trash can was still empty.

Dude. The guy had a cold. You took a blood sugar and vital signs. How did this happen?