If I ever had a call – a double shooting or a status seizure — where I could look back and say here is where it all came together, then I have forgotten it.
What I remember from my earlier years as a medic is not so much one specific call, but rather gradual realizations over a series of calls that I was getting better at my job. Becoming a better paramedic is about reaching a series of plateaus where your realize you are doing something fairly well on a regular basis that you once had anxiety about. You give a quality report at the hospital and think, you know, I’m getting pretty good at that. You manage a cardiac arrest, coordinating the compressions, securing the airway, calling out the drugs, and getting pulses back, and you realize that not only do you know what you’re doing, but you doing it like it is supposed to be done.
There are so many areas a paramedic has to master – from assessment and all its areas to the wide variety of our mechanical skills to other talents like scene management. –that it is hard for any of us to reach true expertise in all facets. There are some areas I became good at quickly — like patient repore or IVs — and others that have taken years to master — like splinting or respiratory care (particularly suctioning) — though mastery is often an illusion.
What I like about EMS is there is no resting on laurels. You truly have to prove yourself every day and on every call. Getting twenty tubes in a row doesn’t help you when you’re looking down the throat of someone you can’t for the life of you get the tube in, or being the nicest, most compassionate paramedic doesn’t cut it when you are in bad mood and set off either your patient or one of their family members with an ill-thought remark. This job is all about the present.
The only difference between now and my younger years is it is easier now to pick myself up when I fall. If I miss an IV or am off base in my assessment, it doesn’t crush me like it used to. Learn and move on. And when I do a really good job, well, I’ve been humbled too much to stick my chest out too far.