The Mentor (or What They Remember)

I am working with a young man who I have mentored since his first day as a volunteer at my old suburban post. I have tried to teach him the right way to do the job – to be thorough, to be considerate, to be empathetic, to be professional. We have done many calls together over the years, and he has made great strides from his first tentative days. I work with him now occasionally in the city.

I come in to work this morning and am glad to see he is my partner. They post us in a location straddling two towns. We stop at a doughnut shop for breakfast. And then we are dispatched to a cardiac arrest at a nursing home in one of the towns. My partner fires up the lights and sirens. Depending on who your partner is a cardiac arrest call can cause a little bit of anxiety. I have no anxiety this morning. I can depend on my partner. He is the EMT is in the old saying. Paramedics Save Lives, EMTs save paramedics. I am very proud of him. I flatter myself that he will carry on in my fine tradition long after I have left the streets.

We are not three minutes into our response when we get shut down as a closer unit is now available. My partner shuts off the lights, and then turns suddenly into the Dunkin’ Doughnuts just ahead.

“What you didn’t get enough to eat?” I ask.

“No,” he says. “Isn’t that what you taught me?”

“What?”

“Whenever you get canceled from a lights and sirens response, pull into the next doughnut shop you see so people will think you were using lights and sirens just to get doughnuts.”

“I said that?”

“Yeah, you said it makes you laugh so hard you nearly pee yourself every time you do it.”

“You sure that was me?”

“Yes, you said the thought that someone thought you were using lights and sirens to get doughnuts cracked you up. You would innocently say to the person if they followed you into the doughnut shop, “Oh, no sir, we were on our way to a cardiac arrest and we just got canceled. I’m just trying to grab a quick bite to eat before the next call. We would never use lights and sirens to get doughnuts.”

I have to admit it does sound vaguely familiar. I suppose I might have taught him that.

“You said you need humor in this job to keep you sane. You’ve got to have your laughs, you said.”

“Okay, well,” I say. “Well done then.”

What the young remember.

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Peter Canning

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  • Comments
    Mike
    You Don't Have to Put on Your Red Lights
    I totally understand what you guys are saying and how you feel. It's a shame that because there are bad apples in a basket, we as people think the whole basket is bad and this is so far from the truth. I was an EMT for a little while, it was my part time job…
    2015-03-29 15:05:53
    Sandy
    The Ideal Medic
    As a 24 year medic, I finally figured out it wasn't me. Thank you for your article. You can't teach that in any classroom. I have always found that empathy is a great tool. Use it to benefit the patient and teach others what it is all about.
    2015-03-24 22:24:30
    Joseph Eriksen
    The Ideal Medic
    As a 30 year, now retired medic I completely agree. There is nothing wrong with second guessing although one should go with their gut. There are times to be aggressive and times to not. Also humor is one of the most powerful pre-hospital tools in the toolbox although it can't be taught. When appropriate it…
    2015-03-24 19:37:25
    Shawn McCormick
    The Ideal Medic
    I totally agree. To me those make great paramedics. I work as a Operation Supervisor and encourage teamwork/backup whenever the situation calls for it. I encourage feedback from a difficult call my crews responded to. 1) they have the chance to recall the events that took place and they may self evaluate the call. 2)…
    2015-03-24 17:14:14
    Sean Fitch
    The Ideal Medic
    Totally agree Peter, For too long I had the same interpretation and like you now, I would by far take your current description.
    2015-03-24 17:05:33

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