Thursday, May 12, 2011

Q is for Quixotic

I remember my first year in EMS. I wondered if my palms would ever stop sweating every time the pager went off and I remember I thought I was going to save the world. I envisioned my days spent averting tragedy at every turn. In reality, I discovered that they were filled with long stretches of exhaustion and boredom occasionally punctuated by moments of sheer terror. I found that I was OK with that.

Idealism is a necessary trait when entering this profession. I was a field training officer for twelve years. It was a revolving door of eager fledglings who felt much as I did in the beginning, and it was my job to teach them the mundane and mind numbing parts of the job and help them to function and deal with the harsh realities of emergency work. Many of my trainees went on to become fine paramedics. Most did not. There aren't many who make a career out of EMS. Some leave to go on to bigger and better things, most just leave because it wasn't what they expected.

I could always tell when a new employee wouldn't stick around long. They were the Don Quixote's who thought that they would achieve adulation and glory, get to drive the ambulance real fast, make lots of noise and force people off the road...WOOHOO! One such young man jumped in the driver's seat his first day, turned the radio to a hard rock station and shouted..."YOU READY TO LOCK AND LOAD!?!?!". I told him to get in the passenger seat, turned the radio to the classical station and very quietly explained that this is an ambulance, not a Humvee. We are medics, not combat soldiers. We don't carry weapons, and we... dont...lock...and...load. He was gone after a couple of months.

I had made myself a promise that when I could no longer remember what it felt like to not know how to do this job, I would no longer be an FTO. I reached that point several years ago. It became like reading. I can't remember what it was like to look at a page in a book and not know what the letters meant, and I don't remember what its like to look at a sick person and not be able to decifer what is wrong with them (usually). I knew that when I lost that empathy for a rookie's greeness, that I would no longer be effective as a trainer, so I passed the baton to other FTOs.

I am happy with the balance in my career. I like the calm, sedateness that the majority of our calls bring and there is just enough excitement to make it interesting and keep me working well into my third decade as a paramedic. But, occasionally I still feel my palms get sweaty and I'll tilt my lance toward a windmill. After all, though I never force people off the road (not cool), I still get to drive the ambulance fast and make lots of noise, WhooHoo!

1 comment:

  1. I love that you are strong enough to know when you've outgrown something and then follow through by leaving the comfortable. That isn't easy and few people do the moving on part.

    As far as driving fast and making lots of noise...WooHoo!

    I’m blogging my way back from Z to A, and I’d love for you to take a peek at my “Q” post: Quelling our Emotions.