School's Out/ The Grasshopper and The Ants

I love being a paramedic, but I periodically wonder about the future. How long can I continue in this field? Will my back hold up? Will 70-80 hours a week of work destroy my life? Will there continue to be 70-80 hours of work a week available for me? What will happen to me when I am old?

My mother used to say I reminded her of the grasshopper in the story about the ants and the grasshopper. The grasshopper spent the whole summer playing music and eating and generally enjoying himself while the ants worked like ants and did nothing but find, carry and store food.

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The Ants and the Grasshopper

(Author Unknown)

The Ants were spending a fine winter’s day drying grain collected in the summertime. A Grasshopper, perishing with famine, passed by and earnestly begged for a little food. The Ants inquired of him, “Why did you not treasure up food during the summer?’ He replied, “I had not leisure enough. I passed the days in singing.” They then said in derision: “If you were foolish enough to sing all the summer, you must dance supperless to bed in the winter.”

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Is my career in EMS as a paramedic like one long summer as a grasshopper? Am I enjoying myself so much that I am not thinking clearly enough about my needs later in life?

Now I can argue that I am more ant than grasshopper. For the last ten years I have pounded away at my 401K, storing the maximum just about every year. I have also worked hard to try to pay down my mortgage. What started as a thirty year mortgage in 1999 stands at less than eight today. But if I were to hurt myself today, what would I do for work tomorrow? Who will hire a man in his middle forties? What is I am hurt in the future. Who will hire a man in his fifties? Or a man in his sixties?I have a college degree, but no recent practical work experience other than being a medic.

I have thought at times of law school. I could go at night and continue to work. A law degree would do me well in my later years. But what of the four years it would take me to get the degree? What kind of life would I have studying all the time? No time to write. No time for fun.

Isn’t there something to be said for living for the day? I see people knocked down in their prime all the time, as well as people who stroke out as soon as they retire. All that savings going to the nursing home.

Last year, during a break in my writing I heard about a nursing program that allowed paramedics to get college credit for self-study nursing exams. The degree would be recognized by 48 states. While I had no real desire to be a nurse, I thought it might be a good education and a good insurance policy in the event I hurt myself or overtime dried up. I saw myself working as an ER nurse part-time while still working as a medic full-time, and then maybe in later years I could always be a night nurse at a nursing home, sitting at the wing desk, telling the nurses’ aides to go see what Mrs. Brown wants in room E109.

I banged out five courses in five months — Gerentology, Life Span Development, Anatomy and Physiology, MicroBiology and Nursing 1 with three As and 2 Bs. I actually enjoyed the learning. Very interesting material, except the Nursing 1, which was very boring — all about nursing care plans.

I took the tests in a nearby town on a computer. They took less than 2 hours and I got my grade each time before leaving. I was all set to take Nursing 2 when I realized while I could probably pass the test, I really hadn’t studied at all and what was the point in taking the course if I wasn’t intent on learning. I postponed the exam. Subsequently I became very busy both writing and working.

Part of the reason I had to work so much was I got divorced and have had to buy my wife out of the house, so to stay ahead of the game (both paying her off and manitaining the house I don’t quite have the spare cash flow I did to pay for the exams and college enrollment costs or the free days off to study.)

Anyway, since I had already registered to take the Nursing 2 exam, I had a year to take it. If I didn’t take it by September 1, I would forfiet the $200 exam fee. So a few weeks ago I scheduled myself to take the exam, but never really got around to picking up a book. My plan was just go down, do the best I can, and hope I passed. Here’s what the exam was on: Nutrition, Elimination, Oxygenation, Fluid and Electrolyte Balance, Activity and Mobility, and Rest and Sleep.

I was done with the test in an hour. I actually thought I was doing okay. I knew half the questions outright — particuarly the ones on oxygenation and fluid and electrolyte balance, but I was lost on the questions about enemas and colostomies. I chose the answers that I thought were reasonable. There were 160 questions and I was done in an hour. If I didn’t know, I didn’t sweat it. I just clicked an answer and moved on.

I failed.

Serves me right.

Instead of being the ant studying, I was the grasshopper, working extra medic shifts and writing or playing poker in my free time.

Does this mean, the end of my nursing path? I don’t think so. I wasn’t going to take another class for awhile anyway. After taking Nursing 2, you have to pay $800 if I want to enroll in the program. You have to be enrolled to take Nursing 3-7. Each test cost about $200. After completing those courses, you do a two day clinical, where you show them you can do IVs, foleys, put pills in paper cups, and then you have to take care of three patients, writing a nursing plan, and making certain you wash your hands all the time, while a grey faced nurse with a pointy hat makes notations on a clipboard. The practical only has a 60% pass rate and costs $1500 to take. I wouldn’t want to fail that.

Maybe sometime when I get more time, I will bear down and try to bang my way through the course, doing some real studying this time, but for now I am somewhat relieved. I feel like the kid in the Alice Cooper song “School’s Out!”

“Schools out for Summer!…
No more books!”

I don’t have that big book sitting on my desk that I kept avoiding. I am free to work on my novel for awhile and keep working on the blog.

Free to keep being a paramedic.

Free to be the grasshopper again.

I’m also free when I return to the courses to really sit down and learn about colostomies and enemas and nutruition and the rest. It really was sort of interesting.

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Here’s a link to the college.

Excelsior College

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I would also like to add, I don’t see a nursing degree as a step up to being a paramedic, more like an add-on, as you add on with courses like CCEMT-P. I reguarly train nurses who are making the jump to becomming paramedics. A medic for them is also expansion as opposed to a jump up or down.

I have also been very interested in doing international relief work due to my experience with Medical Ministries in the Dominican Republic. I was today reading about the organization Doctors without Borders. They will take nurses, but and they are very explicit on their web site — they don’t take applications from paramedics. Or plastic surgeons. Its not just medics who are on the outside.

Doctors Without Borders

2 Comments

  • medic! says:

    You mean your book royalties won’t keep you in champange dreams and caviar wishes??? Christ, I have to stop writing and go to college!

  • MidwestMedic says:

    This is a great post! I’ve just started reading your blog and I’ll be coming back for more.I often feel the same way, plus add the thought of “how will I support my family?” (I have four children.)Great blog!

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