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OOPS I did it again…

Somehow a month has passed – where any of those days went I can’t say for sure. The last weeks of class were extremely busy with ACLS certification, as well as classes on shock. Throw into that working as much as possible to make Christmas better for the kids AND trying to get clinicals knocked out so I don’t get behind on those and the days just flew by.

There were a few stretches in there where work/clinicals went on for 96 consecutive hours… needless to say I’ve been whooped. The break from classes and homework were right on time allowing me to squeeze in more work and clinicals before Christmas.

Pushing myself so hard I expected it to be me that broke down, at some point my eyes refusing to open to the alarm clocks beckon, or just getting sick from being so worn down. Instead it was my truck…

While driving to work yesterday morning the driveshaft of my truck literally fell out on the highway.

I'm pretty sure THAT isn't conducive to driving

Being afoot has given me some unexpected time off from work and clinicals, and while I have a 500 page cardiology book to work through (that’s the next 5 weeks of classes) I am going to take advantage of the time to get some writing done. Yes Mom I will study too I’m already 1/4 of the way through the Cardiology book.

What most people don’t understand is that pecking on these keys is a therapeutic release for me, and I have been missing it greatly. So for the next few days I will be taking advantage of the new found time to catch up on posts and get the pent up stress from school, work, the holidays and yes, even broken down vehicles out.

I have been sitting on several topics for posts, waiting for the opportunity to allow my brain to put together a semi cohesive thought.

If not now, when?

 

Posted by on December 28, 2011 in Paramedic School, Personal

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Interesting Perspectives

This week I had the opportunity to gain a unique and interesting perspective on a call from an angle we as EMS providers don’t often get to see.

It was an “off week” from class due to Thanksgiving and I decided to use the extra time to get some of my clinical time in. Wednesday night from 2300 to 0700 I worked in the ED, and Friday morning at 0645 I was in the OR.

During my extremely busy ED shift a trauma activation came in – “gun shot wound to the head – pulseless and apenic – CPR in progress”

I knew what to expect having called in activations to this busy urban facility in the past… call in the Calvary – Trauma 1 was readied while the ambulance was en route – The docs and nurses had their stuff wired as they readied the room… who’s getting first pressure, who’s got the drug cart, who’s going to bag, who’s recording… They orchestrated the symphony before the particular piece of music arrived. The senior resident was at the head of the bed ready to conduct and all of the members of orchestra stood ready – shortly thereafter the “sheet music” arrived via gurney.

He was a large 30’s male CPR was in progress and they moved him from the gurney to the bed in no time flat. Report lasted about 10 seconds.  (I had heard about these “loud and proud” reports in the trauma room, but I’ve never seen one given, it was impressive.)

Immediately after he was placed on the ED table – compressions resumed, lines were started, orders called out. Doc asked why no tube was in place, medic replied with,  “jaw was clinched and we couldn’t get it”.

“Fair enough” he said as he inflated the cuff on the tube he had just dropped.

Two minutes – nothing.

“Let’s go one more round and call it.”

I climbed up on the stool next to the bed and began compressions – fast and deep, fast and deep over and over – while it shouldn’t be any different it felt like I was being graded by all the docs and nurses in the room and I wanted to be sure every single compression was as perfect as I could get it.

Two more minutes – and one of the docs says – “I have a pulse”, initial pressure was something like 60/30. Meds went in and a physical exam began.

Here’s where it started to get interesting, the patient did indeed have a “hole in his head” and a broken jaw, he also had a hole in his back and in his right bicep. ED Doc decided that the hole in his head was not due to a bullet (no palpable fracture or crepitus below the wound) but that the other two wounds were. A chest tube was inserted and 2300 cc of blood were drained from his chest – he began to stabilize and was sent up to trauma surgery.

The rest of the shift was pretty uneventful and at 0700 I called it a day.

Friday morning rolled around and I headed up to the OR, I was more than a little nervous about intubating my first actual patients. It was a slow day in surgery with only 3 cases scheduled day (a typical day sees between 20 and 30 scheduled surgeries in the 13 different OR suites). The first case however intrigued me, it was the gunshot victim I had worked in the ED.

He had been taken into trauma surgery from the ED and had the bleeding in his chest and right arm controlled, a second chest tube inserted and then was sent to SICU to stabilize before further surgery. Since he was already intubated there wasn’t much I could do, but I was allowed to observe from bedside.

They reopened his chest and after removing several handfuls of clotted blood they began to examine his lung. When the surgeon found out I was a paramedic student and that I had worked this guy in the ED he invited me to “scrub in”.  What an amazing opportunity – how many of us get to not only observe but actually scrub in on a patient.

After the obligatory hand washing to your elbows, the whole dressed by the nurse twirl to get the gown on and sterile gloves I was ready. The surgeon invited me to watch over his shoulder as he showed me the damage the bullet had done to the lung tissue, he explained what he was looking for and at. It was amazing to see the lung in his hands as it inflated, if I looked at just the right angle I see the pulsating aorta as it exited through the diaphragm – this beat cadaver lab hands down.

Satisfied that he had adequately repaired the lung the doc said he was going to attempt to find and remove the bullet – “do me a favor – hold this” he said as he gestured at the retractor sticking out of the guys chest. I looked around through the safety glasses I was wearing, not seeing anyone else he would have been talking to, I pointed at myself (careful not to touch the gown) and said “me?”

I swear I could see the surgeon smile through his mask while he reassured me that I could in fact hold his retractor.

I took a firm hold and was careful to follow his instructions to the letter… he found the bullet and repaired some more damage, it was fascinating to watch. My amazed wonderment overcame any lactic acid build up in my shoulder and arm and I didn’t miss a beat. The surgeon explained to me what he was doing and why as he did it.

Once he was finished and getting ready to close I asked where the bullet had entered and what it had damaged. He invited me around to the other side of the bed and explained that the bullet had just missed the spinal cord and the aorta, and he slid his hand way into the patients chest – he lifted his hand lifted the lungs in the process and said – Here slide your hand against mine – be careful not to rip your glove there are some broken ribs back there.

Could this experience get any better? I slid my hand into the patients chest and could in fact feel the shattered ribs, the vertebral column and the pulsations of the aorta – I’m pretty sure I had that same look a kid who sees Cinderella’s castle for the first time has – It was a truly amazing experience, one I will probably never get again.

Interestingly enough even after surgery the docs weren’t sure if the hole in the patients head was due to a bullet or something else. I suppose it doesn’t really matter, and is a further illustration of how inexact our practice can be sometimes.

It also gave me perspective that most EMS providers never get – while I didn’t actually pick this guy up on the street, I did get to “follow” him from his arrival in the ED to his discharge to ICU. What an amazing experience and how fascinating to watch the treatment plan be implemented and carried out.

 

Posted by on November 28, 2011 in EMS, EMT, Paramedic School

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Consciously Incompetent

Back during our scene safety lectures the instructor said that EMS providers could be broken down into 4 categories and that each marked a different level of progression in our evolution as professionals.

The Four levels of progression as defined by our instructor:

  • Unconsciously incompetent – At this stage of development the provider doesn’t know how much they don’t know – I suggest most beginning paramedic students fall into this category.
  • Consciously incompetent – At this stage the provider begins to understand how woefully inadequate their knowledge base and skill set really are. – This is where I am finding myself these days.
  • Consciously competent – When they reach this stage if they really focus on what they are doing and concentrate fully on the task at hand they can perform their duties and provide adequate patient care.
  • Unconsciously competent – this is where the rockstar medic lives – they go about every call looking like they knew what was wrong with the patient before they even got there and make everything from handling an MCI to holding 95 YO nanna’s hand look like something were born to do. Executing flawless appropriate patient care without even thinking about it.

As a basic, I considered myself among the top two – certainly competent whether it was consciously or unconsciously depended on the call.

Now that I am a paramedic student, at the very beginning of my rides – I am more than aware what I don’t know, how much work “my game” needs and where I fall flat on my face.

When my preceptor for my second ambulance shift got in the bus he opened every sealed cabinet so I would know exactly what was in every box, gave me the narcotics code (hell I don’t even have the narc code where I work), and told me it was MY show to run that day… scene management, assessments, treatment plans, procedures ALL of it. “I will let you totally run the show, until you show me that you can’t, and then I’m going to take the call from you. I won’t let you kill you anyone and I will approve or squash your treatment plan before you implement it – you good with that?”

Seriously? You are going to take the proverbial leash off and let me run the call? HELL YES I’m good with that.

I am totally convinced that somewhere someone has etched “HELL YES I’m good with that”  down as famous last words…

Our first call was for a woman with stomach pain. I jumped out of the bus, grabbed the kit and was off. Ma’am I’m Jeff, I’m with the paramedics can you tell me the problem today? Was about as long as I lasted. She said her stomach hurt and curled up face down on the couch. I looked up at the preceptor probably with that deer in the headlight  look on my face, like now what? That was all the prompting he needed. He got her to sit up, asked his questions and got a response faster than I could even think what I should be asking next. I blew two IV attempts en route to the hospital and felt like a heel… Talk about screwing the pooch. Since I came back to EMS  I haven’t had to deal with someone who wanted our help but was uncooperative… I’ve watched my partner do it, but its never been up to me and my brain just wasn’t going to move that fast.

The second call was a guy who was punched in the face after trying to stop a shoplifter… my assessment was ok (there was really nothing to assess) but being unfamiliar with how refusals work I had to left him take the call from there so it was done properly.

Third call chest pain… I’ve been on a thousand chest pain calls… I had this one down cold – My assessment was good, my line of questioning solid and appropriate, I had come to the conclusion the lady was having a panic attack and so had he… she refused transport and I handled it – we’ll call it a double in baseball terms, good but not great.

Two more refusals and 5 hours of being posted at the airport later the shift ended. That 5 hours without patients was the best part of shift, not because I’m lazy and don’t want to run calls, but because it gave my preceptor time to TEACH me how to do the things I need to work on better. My biggest regret was that I didn’t get to show him how I could implement the suggestions he offered to me into my assessments. I learned a lot about myself in that shift and a lot about how to get better. The scores on this eval weren’t nearly as high as the first ones… but he evaluated me as a paramedic student not as a basic. He challenged me to get better, he pushed me to learn, he asked questions I didn’t know the answers to and then told me how to find them.

When my third shift came around I asked if I could work on the scene management and the assessments because I had identified weaknesses in those area on shift two. My preceptor was happy to oblige and add that he also wanted me to do the hand off reports at the hospital.

Awesome another challenge – now we’re talking.

My assessments were better and I was able to implement a lot of things I had been told the day before, still not great but a whole lot better then when I started. Hand off reports were a little sloppy, but again not something I get to practice often. I tried to implement all the suggestions and make things smoother and more orderly. I felt like I was getting into the rhythm – then we got a call for a sexual assault… It was a teenage girl – tops she was twenty. She had been severely beaten, most likely raped and left for dead naked in a heap on a snow bank.

That rhythm I had been developing was gone… I guess I just stood there unsure what to do because my preceptor jumped in and ran things right out of the bus. Evidence, the suspect, the tragedy this young woman had just endured, injuries My head was spinning and I had no clue which should come first.

My preceptor was a pro – he handled it all professionally, preserving/gathering evidence, assessing and treating all at once – it was impressive.

It was also the point when I realized just how incompetent I am.

 

 

Posted by on November 25, 2011 in EMS, EMT, Paramedic School

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Turned loose on the street…

This week we started our stage 1 ambulance rides (100 hours with the goal of “observing”) Learning how the system works, where things are in the ambulance, how to manage scenes, hand off reports etc – observe how the paramedics we will be riding with do things.

Before we talk about how the rides have gone thus far and what I’ve learned specifically about myself. Let me explain a few things… The service we are riding with is my DREAM job – I want to work there so badly I can taste it. My program is “sponsored” by that particular organization and is considered a year long job interview – impress and perform and you are in… Fall flat, have a crappy attitude, demonstrate you are not up to their high standards and you’re toast.

Knowing all that creates A LOT of self imposed pressure. I want to impress, I want to show confidence, I want to sit in the FRONT seat of that ambulance.

As someone who generally performs better under pressure – I was ready for my moment in the sun so to speak.

Classes to this point have focused mostly on skills – so for all intents and purposes I am a Basic EMT who knows how to do advanced skills: I know how to intubate, perform a cricothyrotomy, administer medications, calculate doses, apply CPAP and capnography, start IV’s , apply the monitor and name the dog in the rhythm strip, hell I even know how to dart a chest… The trouble is I don’t know WHEN to do any of these things – OK granted some of them are obvious – but formulating a treatment plan at this stage of class is still limited to basic knowledge and basic skills.

Ok enough background… Let’s get to the clinicals shall we ?

I went in to my first ride thinking the plan was to basically observe and practice the skills I had learned and SEE when they are used in the field. I met my preceptor and he agreed – Any procedure we need to do I want you to perform; help me at my direction through the shift. Hell I can do that… I mean in reality that’s what I do now everyday when I go to work right ? I knew how to prepare for all the procedures and set them up for my paramedic partner – the difference this time would be, instead of handing the syringe and vial (so he can check medication and that I drew the correct amount up) I drew up to the medic and him handing me back the vial to toss, he’s going to hand me the syringe so I can administer the medication… Cool.

The first 10 hour shift passed with no real acuity to any of our patients, but I helped as I could.

My preceptor evaluated me as a basic and as he expected a paramedic student 2 months into classes on his first ride should be evaluated, giving me very high marks on my evaluation and told me I would be a good medic. These words were music to my ears… I had impressed him and he let me know it – NICE. I was disappointed in his evaluation though… Why?

When all you tell me is great job, you offer no room for improvement, no suggestions for how to get better, no suggestions on expanding my scope or things that I will need to do better or different as a medic. That doesn’t help me, it doesn’t challenge me, it doesn’t force me to grow.

The next day I showed up for my second shift it went a little different.

OK that’s an understatement it was ALOT different….How?

That’s Friday’s post.

 

 

Posted by on November 23, 2011 in EMS, EMT, Paramedic School, Uncategorized

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Wait a minute how did that happen…

*** This post contains images some may find graphic or disturbing – stop reading now if you are sensitive to graphic photos of surgical procedures***

Two weeks… Really???

I looked back at the date of my last post to find it had been two weeks already. It hasn’t seemed that long in the real world. There are so many things that have come up in class that I want to share… Illicit drugs, Excited delirium, Cocaethalene, Capnography, intubation… its been a busy two weeks.Which is probably why they flew by without me even realizing it.

We have the upcoming week off – although for me it is full of rotations through clinical sites – maybe I can catch up on some of the topics I am eager to write about in that time frame.

I have been outed as well… One of my classmates found the blog on FB and started reading it and was like WOW this is all of the stuff we are talking about in class, couple that with the info in the about me and stuff I’ve shared with classmates in conversations and my time in the Marines turned out to be what gave me away. While on the one hand it’s cool to get some recognition for what I write on here, it makes it a little more awkward as well… there is something to be said for writing anonymously – it takes away the pressures of having to be ultra careful about what you say and being able to express yourself without reservation. I don’t think it will affect the blog much as I only write about those topics I really believe in and express opinions that I would not be ashamed to defend.  I am conscious of it though so I suppose if there is any blow by effect it’ll reveal itself down the road.

Last night we did a cric lab where we did both a needle cricothyrotomy and surgical cricothrotomy on sheep tracheas… Pics posted below.

The service we are doing our rides with has a waiver for surgical crics, so we are expected be able to do those as well as the standard needle crics.

Here is the set up we arrived to

We each got a chuck, a 14g angio, a scapel, and a 6.5 ett, along with a syringe to start with

Add one fresh sheep trachea (still cold from the fridge)

Trying to hold the epiglottis up and open the trachea enough to give you a view of the cords and the glottic opening

The first step was to perform a needle cricothyrotomy - insert the catheter at a 45 degree angle in a caudad direction through the cricothyroid membrane

If your question is the same as mine was at this point – ok we are in the airway but how the hell do we ventilate this patient ? Attach a 3 cc syringe to the angio and the adapter from a 7.0 ETT will fit down into the syringe allowing you to hook a BVM to the catheter. Other methods were demonstrated for us as well… but that was my personal favorite.

Next we moved onto surgical cricothyrotomy

We started by cutting our tubes down to just above the tube that inflates the cuff (in reality we would have used a full size tube and cut it after getting the patinet ventilated)

Then we made a surgical opening in the cricothyroid membrane

Beginning the incision into the cricothyroid membrane

From my blurry hand and scapel you would think I was cutting at light speed... damn cell phone camera

Passing the tube through the surgical incision

Successful insertion of the ETT through the surgical opening we created. This "patient" is ready for ventilation now

It was rather interesting to actually perform these skills on something that was close to the real thing, hopefully should I ever need to use these skills this lab will have given me enough confidence in the skills to perform them without unnecessary hesitation.

 

 

Posted by on November 17, 2011 in Airway Managemnt, Paramedic School

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Hindsight is always 20/20 or If had known then…

It’s only been a short while since paramedic school started, but I am already looking back to the prerequisite courses with regret. Just like most programs, my school required an A & P pre-req, as of this year they changed the minimum from needing 8 credits worth to 4; instead of the year-long course they are now accepting a one semester intro to A & P (I have my own thoughts on that, but I’ll save them for another day). I opted for the 8 credit 32 weeks of Anatomy and Physiology knowing that the knowledge gained there would provide a strong foundation to build upon during paramedic school. That was a wise choice and I have no regrets about that at all… here’s what I do regret –

Listening to all the paramedics who told me I’d never need to know most of what I was learning. The Krebs cycle (now called the Citric Acid cycle) Action potentials, Ph… the list I’m sure by the end of school will be extensive.

I have said many times that I am not now nor have I ever been interested in being a cookbook medic… give this drug for this then give that drug for that – regardless of the patients presentation… In my mind all chest pain does not necessarily equate to Oxygen, Aspirin, Nitro and Morphine – that’s not to say this isn’t effective treatment for chest pain – just that I don’t believe just because the patient says they have chest pain we HAVE to follow that particular algorithm every single time…. I want to be allowed  encouraged expected to actually THINK.

Here’s the thing that no one bothered to tell me – to understand a drug… ANY drug – you have to understand the physiological actions of the body process the drug effects FIRST in order to then understand how the drug alters that physiological action.

Do you need to understand those specifics to pass the NR exam? probably not… but again I am not interested in just memorizing a list of drugs and what they are used for… I have always wanted to know the hows and whys behind the pharmacology.

We had three lectures (the first three pharm classes) that were all about action potentials – what ions move where when, how that effects the cell and what happens when we alter the normal phases with chemistry. Two of those lectures focused strictly on Vaughan Williams antidysrhytmics  4 (5) classes of drugs that are classified by which ions movement they effect (and beta blockers).

Why did no one tell me this sooner, why did no one say… hey bud- make sure you remember that stuff cause its going to come back big time in p-school? Does it go to the educational standards of other paramedic schools where as long as you can remember the drug info on the NR sheet they don’t care if you understand what you are doing? Is it more the medics I spoke to are by definition “cookbook” and I just didn’t know it until now? Sadly, I don’t have the answers to those questions.

As a basic I wanted a good solid foundation to build on, but I only had people who had been through paramedic school already to guide me as to what was important to learn and what wasn’t. So if you follow this blog and are preparing for paramedic school – I’m telling you now

LEARN about cellular physiology – study action potentials, which ions move during which phases and what that means both to you as a provider and to your patient. Study the ways that the body maintains homeostasis, learn µ, α,and β receptors – where they are located and what they do. THIS simple thing will make your pharmacology classes SO much easier.

I am wasting valuable study time re-learning stuff I should have had down before school started – Don’t make that mistake.

Don't neglect the cellular physiology when you prepare for P school - so figures like this one don't cause you panic

 This stuff IS important and yes my friend you DO need to know it if you want to progress beyond being a cook book medic.

You can’t say I didn’t warn you…

As a reminder its Movember, and I’ve donated my face to raising awareness and funds for Men’s specific cancer… please make a small donation to help raise awareness and funding for research… You can make a tax-deductible donation here

 

Posted by on November 2, 2011 in EMS 2.0, Paramedic School

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Do you realize ?

That we have been granted a unique privilege by society, to enter into individuals most private lives (to share their most intimate thoughts, feelings, emotions and sorrows) it is a rare privilege which we think so little of and teach so little about in our medical schools, yet it is central to everything we do”

– Fisher “Back To Happiness” 1987

Those words resonate with me at the level of my very being. It is something we so often take for granted. I wonder how many of us stop to actually think about it…

Think about what it is like for someone to call 911 – to know that regardless of who shows up, the police officer, the fire fighter, the paramedic – regardless of who it is – they are opening up their entire life; to you… their home, the most sacred aspects of their lives – mostly without limitation because the situation is out of control for them and they need help…

That is what we do everyday, when we go on 911 calls.

There is an awful lot of gravity to that – what an incredibly special a privilege that is.

Speaking only for myself – I am not a very trusting person, I do not welcome strangers into my home – in fact I am VERY thankful the state I live in has a “Make My Day Law” – I feel strongly about that personally…. But when I need help; I’m calling 911 and no matter who shows up it’ll be “by all means, come on in.” All of a sudden everything flips, because I feel out of control in the situation and I ask for help.

It is all of us that are put in the position to help those people – I hope we always remember what a truly special opportunity that is…

It is a delicate line we walk each and every time we put on our uniform. That fine line between EMT or paramedic/patient relationship and public safety.

Where do lines of confidentiality begin, and end… where are we willing to blur them a bit? ARE we willing to blur them at all?

Due to HIPPA laws we are not allowed to tell the police officer how many drinks our “drunk driver” patient admitted to… but in the interest of public safety do we allow the officer to stand at the back door of the rig and listen to the responses our patient gives to our assessment questions? Do we ask the officer to ride along for “our safety” so he can get the information he needs for his investigation and we don’t breach HIPPA laws? Or do we steadfastly protect the privacy of that patient and close the doors of the bus behind us when we get in and tell the officer he can meet us at the hospital and do his investigation there?

What is the right answer to that question… both options are completely legal – and neither is necessarily right or wrong.

What about the call you respond to for chest pain and see a huge pile of cocaine on the coffee table? Does that change the answer, does it influence your judgement?

I’m not talking about the “mandatory reporting” issues those are clear-cut… I’m talking about those calls that fall squarely in the middle of that grey area.

Where do your ethics draw the line between respecting that immense privilege you are granted in being allowed into someones most sacred and private places and the general safety of the public? Have you ever thought about it?

It was suggested that we think about these tough decision type of calls ahead of time, so that we can make a split second decision we can live with when we are called upon to do so.

In theory that sounds like a damn good idea, however, I wonder if that isn’t like playing “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” on your couch… It’s easy to find the answers when there is no pressure…

When there isn’t $ 1,000,000 on the line and no lifelines left I can right off the top of my head tell you that Dr Ignaz Semmelweiss is the Hungarian obstetrician that required his students to wash their hands in an antiseptic chloride solution before examining patients, and because of that simple task, maternal death rates plunged from a high of 18 percent to a low of nearly 1 percent in 1847. (Our pharmacology instructor is a big fan of “cocktail party trivia”)

I wonder if the memory of that particular nugget of information would come quite so easily with the spotlight shining on me under all the pressure a game show contestant feels…

Is coming up with answers to these difficult ethical questions any different?   Isn’t it easy to know what the right answer for you is sitting there at your desk reading this? Isn’t it easy for me to say “well this is what I would do” hiding behind the blinking cursor of this blog?

I’m not by any means suggesting we should never think about these things… more that, I’m not sure we can answer them with any degree of certainty until it is OUR feet that are being held over the fire.

What do you think?

 

 

Posted by on October 24, 2011 in EMS, Ethics, Paramedic School

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What would you do?

Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Watch your words, for they become actions. Watch your actions, for they become habits. Watch your habits, for they become character. Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.
— Unknown

 

It never ceases to amaze me when the classes you think you are going to get the absolute least out of, prove to be the ones that make you go home thinking. Ethics class proved to be full of  ”things that make you go hmmmm…”

I went into class fully expecting to be bored out of my gourd, which for paramedic school is not such a bad thing, easy nights are few and far between. Class opened with the instructor saying this would be one of those classes where they weren’t there to give you answers; instead they were hoping we would leave with questions, questions about our own set of values and how we exercise those values in the field.

Whatever let’s just this over with so we can go home” – none of us actually said it, but I know I wasn’t the only one thinking it.

The lecture proceeded as expected for a while, the definition of ethics, ethics vs. morals, etc.

Then an interesting “case” was presented.

A foreign “dignitary” was brought into the hospital via ambulance – the hospital was rather busy as you would expect from an urban  level 1 facility, but tonight was exceptionally busy… the dignitary was placed into one of the rooms in the old ER which is now used as the psych ER. The room was perhaps not the cleanest in the hospital, nor was it the newest, it was however fully stocked and equipped with all the necessary equipment.

The nicer rooms in the ED were all filled with “regular people”, homeless folks, the drunk that passed out in front of 7 – 11, junior who fell and broke his arm etc.

The dignitary received the top-level of care and was treated as any other person would have been.

After their release the dignitary filed a complaint about their treatment they received and about being put into the sub standard room.

Then the questions started…  Was it OK to put that dignitary into a sub optimal room instead of homeless Joe? Should that person, based on who they are or what they do receive “special treatment”? Was the complaint justified?

Of course, all of us reacted the same way you probably just did; “Damn spoiled brat politicians” Why should they have gotten a nicer room, or faster care, or any other special treatment. We were all convinced we would have done the same thing the ambulance crew in question did, and the same thing the nursing staff did when the assigned the room…

All of a sudden though what was black and white a moment ago became cloudy and grey with a single question….

What if the dignitary had instead been a police officer, a firefighter or one of your fellow paramedics who was hurt in the line of duty? What if it had been your partner? What if it had been you?

All of a sudden we all were faced with having to admit that each and every one of us (in my class) carry some level of double standard, because we all had to acknowledge that we would have expected DEMANDED better treatment if it had been one of our “brethren”

Where do we draw the line? What is the right answer? What would I have done?

Another case was presented… You are en route to the hospital with a patient suffering from symptomatic V -tach… You call the doc for a med order and to your surprise it’s your medical director who answers… You present your finding and tell the doc your plan; he denies your request to deliver an amiodarone drip and tells you instead to push 1 mg Atropine. Stunned by such an order you request confirmation, and he confirms 1 mg Atropine IV push.

What do you do?

I haven’t had my pharmacology classes yet, but even I know that if you follow the doctor’s order, you will likely kill this patient.

I pride myself on my integrity, my patient advocacy, and my absolute commitment to endeavor to do no harm… My answer was immediate and loud – I give the amiodarone drip to help my patient and I deal with the doc’s fury later…

It’s the RIGHT answer if you ask me, but then the student sitting next to me said ” I totally see what you are saying and I agree that that is probably what you SHOULD do… but how much will that help you when the medical direction gets you fired and your certification pulled, and you are standing in front of the supermarket holding out a can hoping for donations to feed your family”

I paused and considered what he had… Would that change my actions? Would the prospect of losing my chosen career after so much hard work force me to change my mind?

I like to think the answer is no… At least I will know I didn’t sell my soul to make a doc happy and potentially kill someone in the process… But it’s easy to answer that sitting here typing, much different than rolling down the road hot 3 minutes out from that very same doc, holding a patients life in the balance.

All of a sudden this stuff isn’t quite so boring, nor is it quite so cut and dry.

I’m not a huge country music fan, but Aaron Tippin sings a song called “You’ve Got To Stand For Something” there’s a line in the song that says ….

“… Whatever you do today, you’ll have to sleep with tonight…”

I guess it never really hit me much until after that class how true that was…

What would you do my friends?

 

Posted by on October 21, 2011 in EMS, EMT, Ethics, Paramedic School

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Drinking from a fire hose

I’ll begin my apologies for a week between posts. I haven’t been away from the blog, I just haven’t put out a post… What I did put out is a tutorial for medic math. Right now it’s only available on the blog, although I am working on making a downloadable .pdf out of it.

I know I looked and looked for resources to help me learn some of the things from P-school ahead of time, and had no real success- hence the tutorial. As we progress through pharmacology I will try to add a drug reference and list of the drugs they have given us to learn for future students to get a head start.

The first couple of weeks of classes were fairly mellow, rehashing old information and a very quick walk through of new procedures. We got a tour of the ambulance garage we’ll be working out of.

looking in from the outside... We'll be VERY familiar with this place by the time class is over

We stuck each other with sharp objects…

The first EJ of class...

And then it happened basic pharmacology… so much information in so little time. It lasted a week but each night of class yielded an average of 20 pages of handwritten notes… and in reality we didn’t really cover anything other than the drug math.

After a week of that we shifted gears to basic cardiology. Mostly “naming the dog” in lead II.

The reasoning behind the shift and what we are covering now is preparation for ACLS class etc. They want us to have at least a bare bones understanding of strips and drug dosages before then. Additionally, we will be able to start our phase one rotations soon, and we will be expected to know how to start and IV, administer a medication, put on ekg leads and have a clue of what kind of rhythm we are dealing with. There has been a mountain of information in the last 24 hours of classroom time, and all of it is new, and because it is a glancing blow over things we will be going way in depth to later, its been hashed over quickly. It has begun to feel like drinking from a fire hose.

 

I don’t mean the nice easy fire hose stream either

Drinking from the fire hose

I don't mean THIS fire hose...

Image credit

I mean this stream…

Fire hose

I mean THIS fire hose

If you’ve seen the movie “Backdraft” – there is that scene in the burning warehouse where the line is lost and its spraying and flying around all over the place… that’s the kind of hose I’m talking about.

I fully expected it, and no I’m not complaining, but there are moments when I say to myself… Damn, what did we get ourselves into it. I imagine that is something every student out there goes through, I just wonder of it happens to everyone so early.

1 week from today is our first exam… So I may be a little quiet this week…

 

 

Posted by on October 12, 2011 in Paramedic School, Personal

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The Pride Defense

Now that I’ve had ampule opportunity to digest my heaping portion of syllabus salad with boot camp dressing (And So It Begins…), it’s high time we take the swan dive off the high board and find out just what it is I have gotten myself into. With blind enthusiasm, I lept; landing with a thud and a huge splash in medical legal issues class.

Medico-Legal class – what else can I say. Yes, it is dull, it is boring, and it is necessary. It turns out I had prejudged the class though… this one was about to get interesting

My twisted sense of humor grew fond of the instructor (a lawyer-paramedic) telling us “unless you want your policy and procedure manual and that big ole binder with our protocols in it reconstituted in suppository form by some slimy lawyer, you will…” It would be remained funny if he hadn’t said it so often. I had a similar fascination with recto-cranial impaction for awhile so I get the draw.

After the standard misfeasance, malfeasance, abandonment, HIPPA, Good Samaritan laws, etc. Something came over him and he changed from the boring legal guy into a genuine caring paramedic.

“Look I know this stuff sucks, but it is important” Now that we have talked about the required DOT stuff let me give you MY medico-legal class. The stodgy lawyer guy was gone, as were the bad jokes and the lawyer “smell” that permeates the room sometimes when you there is an ambulance chaser attorney in the room.

There before us was a medic who genuinely cared about us as students, about his patients and EMS in general. “I’ve been doing this a long time ladies and gents, and it all comes down to three things. Three little rules that will ALWAYS have you on the right side of any encounter or treatment you render. 3 little rules that will ensure you are delivering the highest quality patient care that you each are individually capable of, and yes for those of you that worry about such things, 3 little rules that will cover your ass.

“Get out your pens and something to write with – THIS is important. In this line of work it isn’t a question of if you get sued, it’s a question of when, and in addition to making you a better medic, these 3 rules will make you as bulletproof as a medic can be. Ready…”

1 – Do what is in the best interest of your patient (this of course should be our guiding principle always)

2 – Do what your medical director would want you to do (sometimes harder to know than what is in your patient’s best interest – depending on your particular medical director and service – this one could be a sticky wicket for some of you out there.)

3- Do what you would be proud to defend. (WOW… I have never heard it put so simply and so brilliantly before.)

“Do those three things and your patients will get the treatment they need, your service will get the medic they deserve and YOU ladies and gentleman will be able to sleep at night and hold your head high when you tell people you are a Paramedic. Have a good night.”

The moment was lost on some, as they eagerly picked up their books and bolted, or began to discuss what bar they were going to meet at for beers after class. For a few of us though, we just sat there in stunned silence – jaws agape.

I felt like I had just been given the meaning of life…

Let’s be honest, if all of us could just do number three ALL the time, how much simpler would our lives as EMS providers be. Would we even need rule number 1 or 2 if we could always do 3?

Call me an idealist (you’d be right), but think about all the negative news stories you have ever heard about EMS, EMTs, Paramedics, ambulance services – public and private – How many of those stories would simply dissolve into nothingness if the individuals involved had followed rule number 3?

Do what you would be proud to defend – it’s so simple yet so eloquent.

It should be easy to remember, not most of the time, not for 98% of the calls – but for EVERY single call we run – including the “drunk” at 3 am that swears that telephone pole jumped into the road, 95 YO nana who fell down and just wants help back up when all you want to do is sleep, AND the emergent response to 7-11 – you know the one the “man down” call that proves to be a convenience store attendant is tired of looking at the homeless guy sleeping outside so he calls 911 and says “man down”.

I can’t speak for anybody but me, but I know I would not be proud to have to defend every single action I have ever taken on a call. How about you? Can you look at yourself in the mirror and say that you have honestly given every patient you have ever encountered your best?

If you can say that, then either you are deluding yourself, or your best might need a little work. For those who will say I have given every single patient, every single time nothing but the absolute best I had to offer and are neither delusional nor incompetent – where do I put in my application, I would be honored to work with such an legend partner  EMS God.

For the rest of us human EMS providers, I learned something when I was in the Corps that has stuck with me to this very day “If it feels good to do or to say – you probably shouldn’t” Following this mantra has extracted me from more than one situation that could have turned out much worse then it did. I have used it in both personal and professional life; it wasn’t until sitting in a classroom full of bored paramedic students that it hit me. My mantra was indeed sound, but it didn’t go quite far enough, particularly when dealing with someone who very well may be having the worst day of their lives.

Pride is defined as “feeling pleasure or satisfaction over something regarded as highly honorable or creditable to oneself” (1)

As I continue the journey toward the glittery disco patch, the first standard of care that I intend to change from my days as a basic is to try to remember to always ask myself  “Would I be proud to defend what I am about to do ?”

Now that is a gold standard to try and live up to.

(1)    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/proud

 

Posted by on October 1, 2011 in compassion, EMS, EMS 2.0, EMT, legal, Paramedic School, Personal

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