Tuesday, December 6, 2011

People Skills

I was never one of the "popular kids" in school. In fact, I didn't really fit into any of the typical "cliques." Instead, I sort of floated between some of them, with friends in different groups.  I was friendly with a wide variety of people, including some that most people seemed not to notice at all.

Invisible people.
The kind most people would never notice if they disappeared.

The quiet ones.
Or the "different" ones.
I was "different."

Interestingly, most of the people I'm friends with now describe their teen years somewhat similarly. Not the popular group. Floating between different groups. Friends with a wide variety of people. Different.

Turns out, not being popular in high school becomes an advantage later in life.
Who knew?
Sure didn't feel like it then.

The advantage is in having learned to appreciate, to get along with, and to care about all sorts of people. Not just those who "fit in" or who behaved in certain ways, valued certain things. Not just those who believed the same, or dressed the same, or came from the same background.

My favorite medic (kind of like My Little Pony, but different) became my favorite before I even knew his name. I would see him at calls, either out here, at our calls, or sometimes out and about in the nearby larger town, when I happened to be somewhere an ambulance was called. What stood out, even to my totally uneducated eye at the time, was that he was really great with people. Friendly, calm, reassuring. Comfortable. Caring. Someone who inspired trust within moments of meeting him.

I purposely learned his name.

When it came time for me to do my ride time for my EMT-B class, that's who I ended up riding with. Not intentionally- I didn't know HOW to ride with a particular medic on purpose yet- but it would have been intentional if I could have chosen.

I learned a little more about him, including that his childhood had included traveling around and helping people all over the place. That his childhood had brought him into contact with a wide variety of people culturally, geographically, and socioeconomically. That's how he learned to get along with and value all sorts of people, and that really showed in his patient care.

Turns out that the medics I look up to the most have that in common- that they all learned, in various ways, to accept and love people different from themselves, and it is that ability to really care for and about patients that shines through. They all have excellent skills, as well, don't get me wrong. But it is the people skills that stand out.

That's how I recognized that a lot of what makes a good medic (or EMT) isn't taught in the medical-related classes, it's taught by life experiences, and we teach each other, by example.

I am very fortunate to have some excellent examples to learn from. I've had four people, in particular, who have had a huge influence on me, and who've been there during some particularly formative experiences as an EMT. My first serious call as an EMT, first full arrest, first major trauma, first pediatric trauma, first serious call with a patient who was a family member- all had at least one of my role models there to help me not only through that call, but, more importantly, to begin to develop a good pattern for dealing with such calls in the future. To help ME become a more calm, focused, caring provider, even in the worst of times.

I hope I can live up to their excellent examples someday, and pass some of that on.

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