Saturday, March 10, 2012

A Case of Nerves

Practical Exams.

Why is it that nearly everyone gets nervous?

For my first practical, back in my original EMT-B class, I was very well prepared. I had excellent instructors, and ample time to practice. We went through the stations the day before, to get accustomed to the format, and have a chance to go through practice scenarios. It went very well.

In particular for the medical assessment, it went like clockwork. I walked in, was totally relaxed, went through the scenario without hesitation, without missing a beat. It felt great!

The next day, the medical assessment was the fourth station I did.
I walked in, and the moment I walked through the doorway, my mind went completely blank.

I took a few deep breaths. Took a few more.
I ended up doing just fine.

The next time I went through a practical exam, I had prepared extensively on my own. I went through each station in my head. I focused my practice on going through the station the same way every time.

When the day came for the actual exam, I started out the morning feeling okay, but as the day went on, I was more and more stressed. There was no particular reason, but there it was. I noticed everyone else was reacting pretty much the same way. The relief at the end of the day, when I passed everything, was tremendous.

Since then, I've talked to quite a few people during the time they were studying and practicing for their practical. Nerves seem to be pretty much par for the course.

But why?  Why is that?

Most people I know have been well prepared, and I know that they know the skills. Any trouble they have with the exam itself is more from the STRESS, than from anything else.

One could argue that we often need to perform skills in stressful situations, so duplicating that for an exam is a good idea. But I don't think it's really done on purpose. I think the way it's designed, we should all feel confident and prepared and float through it, no sweat.  But from what I've seen, most people don't.

Maybe it's simply that it's so important to us.


  1. I have seen and experienced the same thing from both sides of the fence. Personally I think it's the fact that the thing the student has been working toward is now in the hands of an evaluator that, sometimes, they don't know. Other times, it has nothing to do worth the evaluator, it's just that this is THE moment, the one thing that stands between them and their goal. Nice blog by the way, keep it up!

  2. Every time I feel like I am starting to get worked up whether it's in class or out on a call. I stop take a few big deep breaths like you said and start working again. No one ever notices that you are doing it and it's amazing what just taking those breaths can do for you.