Unprofessionalism in Education

We’re gonna play a little game today. Yep. You and me. I’m going to write a quote here that took place at school the other day, and you’re going to guess who said it. Okay? Great!

“So Elise emails me this question the other night, asking me about complications of placenta abruptio. (laughs) Seriously? How do you not know this? Like, really? How about bleeding out, Elise? That’s gonna be a pretty big problem pretty quick if you don’t see what’s so wrong with having placenta abruptio. I can’t believe she asked me that.”

You probably have a decent picture in your head. Some mouthy nursing student (similar to ones I’ve previously posted about here and here) that has nothing better to do with her time than put down the others, most likely because she’s insecure herself. But you’d be wrong.

That quote was from one of our teachers.

That really grinds my gears. I am somewhat shy, but I used to be much much worse. Speaking from experience, shy people can get incredibly uncomfortable about asking questions in a public forum (ie, a classroom.) Why? Because we’re afraid everyone’s going to think we’re stupid. At least that was my fear. So emailing a question is a nice, private way of learning while successfully avoiding judgement. Right?

Wrong, apparently. I guess now it’s okay to make a mockery of a student by name–who fully intended to speak with you privately–and flaunt it to other students. I’m proud to say that none of the students in this room so much as chuckled. No one said anything. We all just stared at her, occasionally exchanged glances with others, and waited for her to finish her rant. When she was done, there was an instantaneous understanding amongst all the students in the room. We could never feel comfortable asking her questions without fear of her making fun of it to other students. Creating an environment that discourages questions from being asked is to essentially kill off the possibility of gaining a full and comfortable understanding of subject material. Inquiries are at the heart of learning. And now, everyone is afraid to ask. Super.

I’m completely disappointed and continuously discouraged every time something like this happens. To any of you educators out there, I am begging you…please never do something like this to your students. Ever.

A Newfound Respect

“I don’t know, man,” I said to my partner, “I don’t have a good feeling about this one.”

He sighed, “Yeah, I was gonna say the same thing. And it really doesn’t help that we’re going to Deerbridge.”

I’m not particularly proud to write this, but if you heard the town name “Deerbridge” in a conversation at our fire station, there was usually a rolling of eyes, annoyed grumbling, or “You wouldn’t believe what happened” story carried in the same breath. Some of them were nice enough, but a few members there earned the department the reputation of being “difficult to work with,” and, occasionally, “dense.”

I settled in for the long ride, watching the red lights flicker and reflect off of the occasional “cow crossing” and “moose crossing” signs. In my head, I ran through what we could do for our patient. Dispatch crackled over the radio. “Update for all units responding to Deerbridge, police on the scene asking you expedite. Patient is now unconscious and gasping.”   We still had about 10 minutes until we were supposed to arrive on scene.

“Not good,” My partner mumbled, pressing a little harder on the accelerator. The red lights of a Deerbridge engine flashed in our rearview mirrors. My partner and I looked at each other gravely, realizing they wouldn’t be getting there any sooner than we were.

As our little emergent parade turned onto the road of our destination, dispatch crackled again on the radio. Her voice had lost its edge. “Units responding in Deerbridge, downgrading the call. Patient is unconscious, not breathing. DNR in place.”

Soon, we found ourselves in the home of a shocked and mourning family. My partner went into the kitchen to look over the DNR paperwork. I carried the monitor into the bedroom. The family had gathered around the room, hands over their mouths, silent tears falling from their eyes. I felt intrusive as I placed the electrodes on the man’s still-warm skin. Quickly, I silenced the alarm as the monitor registered the straight green line.

The man’s daughter began to cry openly. “He was fine 30 minutes ago. He was absolutely fine.” Deerbridge EMT’s filed into the room. The teary eyes and flat-lined monitor confirmed dispatch’s report.

The daughter cried louder, “It was so fast. It was so fast.” A Deerbridge EMT pulled the woman in close as she sobbed and repeated herself, patting her back and soothing her. Another Deerbridge firefighter took the smaller children outside to make snowmen while the news settled and shook the adults. Yet another EMT disappeared back into the kitchen, reappearing some time later with hot tea for everyone. More settled in next to family members, offering tissues, giving hugs, and simply listening.

After gathering our information and doing our best to help the family, my partner and I prepared to clear the scene and return to service. Deerbridge EMT’s and firefighters stayed with the family even after we had to clear. In fact, they stayed even after their loved one’s body had been taken to the funeral home.

I left that scene with a completely newfound respect for Deerbridge. Despite the issues we’d had, they handled that call better than I’d ever seen or heard. That day, I saw them truly care for the fellow citizens of their tiny town the best way they knew how. And that will forever stay in my memory.

Why Are (Or Aren’t) We A Profession?

If you have read a blog about EMS, you’ve probably read several posts about what’s wrong with EMS. If you have read a blog in EMS of any notoriety, you’ve probably read several posts proposing how we can fix EMS. One recurring theme in these posts is that EMS is not a “true profession,” which is supposed to be the driving force behind our lower salaries and perceived lack of respect as a field. So, what would make us a true profession?

“A profession has been defined as an occupation that requires extensive education or a calling that requires special knowledge, skill, and preparation. A profession is generally distinguished from other kinds of occupations by (a) its requirement of prolonged, specialized training to acquire a body of knowledge pertinent to the role to be performed; (b) an orientation of the individual toward service, either to a community or to an organization; (c) ongoing research; (d) a code of ethics; (e) autonomy; and (f) a professional organization.”

–Berman, A., & Snyder, S. J. (Eds.). (2012). The nature of nursing. In Kozier & Erb’s fundamentals of nursing concepts, process, and practice (9th ed., p. 17). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

I encourage you to pick any of the points above and write a post about how EMS does or does not satisfy that element required to be called “a profession.” Or, maybe you have your own ideas as to what is necessary to be deemed “a profession.”

When time allows, I hope to be able to address all of these myself, but I’m very curious as to what you think. If you do write something, post the link in the comments so we can read!

Respect Rant

If you know me out in the real world, you would see that I’m shy, quiet, reserved. It usually takes me a while to warm up to new people. In social situations, I spend a good chunk of time observing, just trying to figure out who’s who and where I fit into the group. I try to get along with everyone, and for the most part, I do that. With very few exceptions, I’m nice and polite even to people I can’t stand. Part of that is because I hate confrontation and strive to avoid it. The other part of it is that I try to be respectful of everyone.

I’d like to illustrate a very important difference between respecting an individual and being respectful towards that individual. Respect is earned. Respect comes when one demonstrates some quality which is another individual finds admirable and oftentimes uncommon. Of course, everyone’s definition of an admirable trait differs slightly. You will respect a person who demonstrates traits you find desirable. That in itself is shaped by who you are and what experiences have made you that way. Some find intellectual brilliance to be worthy of respect. Others, the ability to stay level-headed in times of extreme stress. Still more, finding the strength to persevere. For you, maybe it’s the ability to speak one’s mind and stand up for what he believes is right. Or maybe someone’s sunny disposition, finding the best in everyone he meets. Maybe it’s the proof of reliability, dependability, and trustworthiness. The list goes on and on. What’s odd about it is that it’s not really something you can control. You don’t really give respect any more than a sport’s official gives an athlete a trophy, or a teacher gives a student an “A”. The athlete and the student earned their rewards. The official and the teacher, despite their significant roles, don’t really do much except present the rewards. Someone earning your respect tends to be a big deal. The dynamic of a relationship–be it professional, friendly, romantic, or otherwise in nature–changes when respect is earned or exchanged. Not everyone is necessarily worthy of having his name mentioned when the sentence, “I respect _____” leaves your lips.

But everyone is worthy of being treated respectfully. We owe it to one another to be kind. Or, at the bare minimum, polite. Life is stressful. Nobody needs to tell you that; you know firsthand. As does every other person in this world. There is no shortage of stress in our lives, ranging from merely inconvenient to earth-shatteringly heartbreaking. Events cause a sizeable percentage of these. Most of these are out of our control. What’s frustrating is that people can cause plenty of stress too–and that can be helped. How often do you take out your frustrations on other people–people who might not have anything to do with why you’re upset? I’ll raise my hand and say I do it. I’m guilty of it. It’s understandable, even if it’s not justifiable. But to be nasty to people just to be nasty; just to momentarily feel that you’re in control of others, and thereby in control of the situation, is not okay. It happens sometimes, but that’s when you apologize and make ammends. Because that’s what grown-ups do–or should do. You are in control of your actions, and as a result, you are capable of making the decision to be respectful or disrespectful. To speak to someone with malice, with a fire in your voice and a bite in your words, is disrespectful. It drives me crazy when people justify their actions by ending their confrontation with something to the effect of, “It’s okay, I don’t respect him.” As if that makes it any better.

You don’t have to respect everyone. In fact, you shouldn’t. You have no responsibility to respect people. Don’t respect anyone, for all I care (although that’s probably a fairly miserable existance). But you do have a responsibility for your actions. So you do have a responsibility to be civil; to treat people as people. Everyone has stresses, problems, and frustrations. Why should you add yourself to their list? Take that into consideration next time you find yourself snapping at the nurse who is a little flustered. Or tearing into someone at the registration desk because he’s not moving quickly enough for you. Or digging into your new partner, who hasn’t quite gotten her bearings yet.

You don’t have to respect someone to be respectful to him.