Monday, March 7, 2011

A Real Post

I'm one of those people who watched Emergency! when it was first on.  Wanted to be a paramedic since way back then.

Didn't happen, though.  Various things- mostly misinformation, but some simply timing, or different choices- combined to send me in other directions for most of my life.  Got married, had kids, raised them.  Did a bunch of other, seemingly unrelated, stuff.

And then joined the local fire department. At the age of... never mind.  Let's say significantly older than most new recruits, but not older than most of the members.  One of the first things they wanted to know was whether I was interested in fire (yes!) or in EMS.  Oh... I can do that?  Really?  And the training is free?  Seriously?

How come no one ever told me, all this time, that if I joined the freakin' fire department, I could be an EMT?  I'm not sure I really knew that all I had to do to join was walk down the road and... join.  And last I knew, women couldn't be firefighters, not that I'd ever heard.

Which means, primarily, that I had a spent a lot of years not paying attention.
And the local department had spent a lot of years... not recruiting.

So I took the EMT-B class, and checked one thing off my bucket list.

I went into the class with a greater than average  knowledge of medical things, in general.  Not that that means a whole lot, but it means something.  The class wasn't difficult.  I took my first Red Cross first aid class in the mid-seventies.  And I had three kids- can't get through that without SOME medical knowledge, like it or not.

And I like it.  A lot.

My Basic class had two primary instructors, with one assistant who was basically student teaching, in order to become qualified to be a lead instructor.

The two primary instructors were fabulous. I couldn't have asked for better.
The student teacher? Not so much.  She had heart, I'll give her that, but was not very comfortable in front of the class, and was limited to reading powerpoint slides.

Have I mentioned I hate when people read powerpoint slides?  Please just let me read the book.  Please.

When my son and I (we were in the same class) got our cards, we were excited.

And then...
we realized something. Something important.

Years ago, this town was known for having the best rescue squad in the county.  They had some of the local pioneers, people who really worked hard to improve EMS here. Even some volunteer paramedics, which is not a common thing.

But now?
Not so much.
Since joining the department, there had been several EMTs who moved away, left the department, or simply did not recertify.
Suddenly- quite suddenly- it was only us.
The only more experienced EMT we had didn't go to calls. He has since let his certification lapse and as far as I know, does not plan to recert.

There was one person who became an EMT a few months before us, but he only ever attended one call.  He was actually a bunker about 45 minutes away, finishing a fire technology program, and he never came back to the department.

In the next year, nine additional people took the class.
Sounds great, right?
In the first group of four, one failed the class. Two moved away after going to 3 or 4 calls.
The other is still here, but has attended very few calls, and has almost no experience or further training.

The next group of four, two quit the department before finishing the class.
One moved away right after finishing, having never attended a call.
The other got a job on an ambulance, and has never come to a call out here.

The next one to finish the class moved away AND started working for the ambulance.  No calls out here.

We had an EMT move here from somewhere else, join, go to one or two calls, and then move away again.
And we've had a career firefighter join the volunteer company. He's also an EMT, but hasn't come to any calls.

So out of twelve other potential EMTs... we have one.  The one who spent most of the past 2 1/2 years not going to calls and not training.  

So the question is...
WHY did all these people not stay here, and/or not go to calls here?
What is going on?

I can't know for sure, but I sure have a theory.

This is my theory:
There is nothing here to keep anyone.
No training.
No mentors.
No way to advance.
No way to maintain skills.
And that doesn't even take into account how new people are treated. Our one recent new EMT is not so sure she wants to stay, based on how she has been treated.

In order not to write a dissertation here, I'll keep this short.

I'll talk a little about how it affects ME.

First, it's dangerous.  And disrespectful.
Second, it puts me in a position to have to scramble to find ways to maintain my skills on my own, and to get training on my own.

I've done a number of things.
I've gone to nearby companies and joined their training.
I've continued communication with my former teachers.
I took the EMT-I class. Twice.  There's a story there, for another time.
I've taken advantage of some regional training opportunities.
I've taken advantage of one county training opportunity, the only one there has been.
I've bought a lot of educational books.
Done some online training.
Talked with the medics at the nearby ambulance company.
Did a LOT of ride time during my EMT-I class(es).

And I took the scary step of applying for a scholarship to go to EMS Today- and got it.
Had to get creative with my budget to be able to swing transportation and a hotel room.
Won't be able to do that often.

EMS Today was my first experience with any major EMS conference.
I wasn't sure what to expect.

What I GOT was fabulous.  I'll be writing about this for quite some time to come.

But here is the thought I wanted to share, the reason for this entire lengthy post.

I heard some rumblings, some... dissatisfaction with EMS Today. The one that stuck out for me had to do with the sessions being not the most interesting topics.

I understand that for people who have been doing this a long time, the sessions must get repetitive.  Most of the information isn't new, by any means.  Aside from the possibility of a new topic coming up like the changed AHA guidelines (which isn't really that new), most of it has been seen before. And before. And before.

I get that. I really do.
And what it means for those people is they can go and choose to focus on other aspects of the event, like socializing or "networking." Which is great, and is EXACTLY what I used to do at conventions I used to go to years ago.  I was the head of an organization, and a dealer, and I didn't actually attend any of the stuff scheduled for the paying folks. Didn't need to, and didn't have any interest. Had plenty other things to do.

But for this, for EMS Today, those sessions that probably most medics have already done to death, they were a GODSEND to me.
I DON'T know all this stuff.
I haven't done these classes before.
I picked up a huge amount of information I hadn't seen before, or hadn't thought about. Some of it subtle. Some of it not.

So while I wish that there would be new, interesting sessions, for the most experienced people attending, something that would knock their socks off... I am immensely grateful for the stuff for the LEAST experienced among us.

Because that might very well be me.  Or at least, I'm not far from that end of the scale.

I learned more in four days than I have in the past year, and that wasn't without trying.
I learned more in four days than my department has offered in four years. 

So I wish, I really wish, that I could be in a position to find these events boring. That I could go to one and have already seen all the presenters before, and be familiar with the sessions they give.  That I could spend four days and have there be nothing new, nothing I hadn't done before.

I really do.

Maybe I'll get there someday. 

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