Endings, Beginnings and the Quest for the Disco Patch

So in less than 24 hours The Quest for the Disco Patch begins… First things first for my non EMS friends who read this blog as well as my unenlightened brethren who are sitting with a puzzled look wondering what the hell a disco patch is and why in the world would anyone want to start a quest for one… This is the disco patch

And if the old saying is true that a picture is worth a thousand words, there is no need for me to explain why it is sometimes called the disco patch. (It would be more true if you could tell that the gold thread is all glittery)

I knew as I got closer and closer to the actual start day of school my anxiety level would begin to ratchet up (and I was right 😉 ) So I decided to work as much as I could the last few days before school started… this resulted in me working 78 of 96 consecutive hours – I know it sounds crazy but it served a two-fold purpose, first it is good training for the demands and lack of sleep the upcoming year is certain to be filled with and it kept my mind from running through the imaginary scenario of the first night of class over and over again. (How I’m going to feel about an average of 2.5 hours a night of sleep over the past 4 days by the end of this weeks classes remains to be seen)

SO now you are wondering why my anxiety level was ratcheting itself up so much right… (maybe when I’m too old for EMS I’ll go into mind reading) Every single person I have ever talked to has described p-school with same word “hell” – the length of time has varied, the adjectives before hell have changed (some wholly inappropriate for our little discussion here) but the word hell has been in every description I have heard. I didn’t choose any p-school either I chose one that was competitive to get into and is renowned for its difficulty. The medics that work for the service that runs the program are the US Marines of EMS providers locally. SO in my estimation that at least doubles the challenge level of school.

I am a planner, I like to take a list of obstacles and plan for how I’m going through, over or around each of them to get to the destination, while I have a general idea of the obstacles (cardiology, pharmacology, pathophysiology and scene management) I have no idea at this point in what order or how long of a time frame I have to master them. For me that is VERY unsettling. Throw that onto the above mentioned stuff and maybe you will glean a shred of understanding into the ratcheting stress level.

Some good did come out of it though, I had a very interesting discussion with one of the firefighter medics in the station I worked in this weekend. She pointed out what in her opinion were some of the “weaknesses” an EMT who works in a system like mine are likely to have going into to P-school and strategies to overcome said weaknesses. This was all helpful information, the particular department my service is quartered with are among the best fire medics I have ever worked with so her advice was both appreciated and respected.

A friend pointed out to me as well today “You do realize that today is the last day you will ever be “JUST” a basic (emphasis hers not mine)” While that thought hadn’t actually crossed my mind I suppose they were right, starting tomorrow “I am Paramedic student” not that that isn’t still “just” a basic, but they were right somehow it is different (in my mind at least)

The text is sitting on the desk – the first 4 assigned chapters (due the first night of class) have been read (for those interested below is our main text and work book)

Let the quest for the Disco Patch begin…


Posted by on September 18, 2011 in Anxiety, EMS, Paramedic School, Personal

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Dry spell

It started with working 64 out of 72 hours, and in one of the funny EMS twists it was for all intents and purposes a stand up 64. After some MUCH needed sleep, I sat down here and stared at the cursor’s impatient blink in the vast white space I am typing in now. Funny how our perception of things can change, at that moment the screen was this huge empty vacuum that demanded I put something into it. The screen was way too bright, way too needy, and the blog was crying out for sustenance, just a morsel of a thought was all it wanted. To my mind though it was starving, it needed a meal and simply put my mental cupboard was bare.

A few days passed, each one of them whispered into my ear – hey dude that blog thing you started… how bout pecking out some words… I heard the whisper, but something inside chose to ignore it. At those moments while it nagged persistently in my ear, a root canal seemed more enjoyable than the prospect of logging on here and finding something to talk about with some semblance of intelligence.

It wasn’t until today that it dawned on me, that I have been subconsciously taking a character inventory, as well as a performing a mental remodel of sorts.  It sounds like something I would have been rather conscious of, but the truth is it was rather insidious, dwelling just below the consciousness of my psyche.

It wasn’t until today when I read Kelly Grayson’s blog post containing a letter for EMT students on their first day of class that it dawned on me what was happening just below my parietal bones. You can read Kelly’s letter here

In all honesty by the time I reached the end of the letter I was choked up, not quite crying, but as close as I can remember being to tears in a long time. For the record – I am a 41-year-old former Marine and anyone who knows me will tell you I am not the crying king of guy. Why then did Kelly’s letter move me in such a profound way? I spent the day trying to answer that very question after a few hours the fog in my head parted and I saw what had been going on.

I had been examining the reasons I wanted to make the leap from basic to medic, trying to find what need inside myself becoming a medic would fill that wasn’t being filled now. I have heard more “horror” stories about the difficulties of completing paramedic school than I can count, how difficult it would be, how little I would sleep in the coming year, how I would never be around anyone but my preceptors, how when I was around I would be grumpy, stressed and exhausted.

Undaunted by all these stories, I submitted my application the very first day that I met the criteria, having now been officially accepted I thought I better make sure I was doing it for all the right reasons. Yes I did perform this mental inventory of sorts before applying, but now that I have a letter in my hand that says I am accepted, somehow it’s different. I suppose it’s my minds way of giving me one last out… nice of it to be so considerate, but totally unnecessary.

While taking that inventory, I have been trying hard to change my attitude from the extremely confident basic (did I mention I was a former Marine… I’m pretty sure the last time I truly lacked confidence when I got off the bus at Parris Island – the instilled enough in me after that to last a couple of lifetimes) to the I know absolutely nothing paramedic student. That has been quite the paradigm shift for me, I spent all this time getting comfortable in my own EMS skin, growing comfortable in my skills, expanding my knowledge etc, and now I was working to “undo” all of that. Yes, I do realize that I’m still going to need to know this stuff when I arrive for p-school, however, I don’t want to be the arrogant ass that the instructors are always trying to show how little they actually know. On top of that, I know me… If i think I know it already, I won’t work as hard to master the concepts as I will going in with the attitude of “I don’t know shit”.

As the icing on my cake, anything that has happened at work over the last week or so that didn’t go absolutely perfectly, anytime I perceived anything on a call could have gone better, I questioned myself – are you sure you are really ready for p-school?

It’s been an interesting awakening and a rather insightful look under my own hood, I am happy to see me again when I look in the mirror and to see words in the vast empty white space in front of the little blinky cursor.

I almost forgot to answer the question I’m sure you are asking… why did Kelly’s letter choke me up… That’s another days post

Til next time…





Posted by on August 11, 2011 in Anxiety, Paramedic School, Personal


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T minus 5 days and counting

As many of you already know, I am anxiously awaiting a decision letter regarding acceptance status into paramedic school, I had my interview back on the 6th and was told to expect a decision before the 1st. Though always lingering in the recesses of my mind, thus far it has been fairly easy to stave off any anxiety regarding that decision with the calendar, it’s simply been to far away to dwell on. Then this week started and since Monday I have been checking my e-mail every 5  minutes, not because I really expect an answer yet, instead more because I just can’t help myself.

Every decision I have made with regard to my career has led up to this decision. I have passed all the tests, sat through the interview process and have completed the pre-reqs all with a 4.0 GPA, but now I am in this state of limbo where there is nothing further I can do to positively influence whether or not I am going to be a paramedic student in September or if I will have to wait another year. It plays with my head a little to be involved in such an important decision and have it totally out of my hands.

I made the decision on which school I wanted to attend early in my career here and made no effort to even apply anywhere else, I would rather wait another year then attend another program. Knowing that letter SHOULD arrive at some point this week, has led to a bit of anxiety. While working the box it’s pretty easy to push the thoughts off – there are simply more important things to focus on at that moment, but I just finished a 48 and I have the next 4 days off… I anticipate that the send/receive buttons on both my phone and the computer are in for a workout.

I will announce the decision here when I find out… in the mean time maybe one of you will do the math for me and figure out how many times I will press the get mail button in the next 5 days…


Posted by on July 27, 2011 in Anxiety, EMS, Paramedic School, Personal

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