From Your Computer
As you might imagine, I’m a big fan of E-learning. I also have a soft spot for the social media craze. But there are still a few things that you just can’t learn staring at a computer screen. OK, there are a LOT of things you can’t learn staring at a computer screen. Here are ten:
1.) You can’t learn pattern recognition.
If you’ve ever wondered about how experienced EMTs and medics can figure out exactly what’s wrong with the patient two steps inside the front door, it’s not magic. It’s pattern recognition. When you’ve seen what CHF looks like a hundred times, you can pick out the pattern almost instantaneously. Watch a hundred people have cardiac chest pain and you’ll be able to see it from across the room. But it doesn’t matter how many times you read those chapters in your books. You need to see it.
2.) You can’t learn how to put people a ease.
Until you’ve become comfortable with your own skills and knowledge, your not going to be able to put others at easy. That only comes from experience. You’re going to need to run a lot of calls before you feel comfortable enough in your own skin to be able to calm an anxious patient with your words and demeanor.
3.) You can learn to delegate and run a scene.
Bringing the scene together and using resources efficiently without bruising anyone’s delicate ego is an art form that you’ll develop your whole career. We can write about it and give you pointers but when it comes down to it, you’re going to have to learn it on your own.
4.) You can’t learn from your patient.
After you’ve poured over all the books, the videos, the teachers, the blogs and the partners, you learn that the best teacher you could ever have is your patient. Your patients and their bodies are a wealth of medical knowledge and information. And you can’t meet them sitting in front of your computer screen.
5.) You can’t learn your strengths.
Sure you can learn about the skills and the fancy medical stuff. But until you go out and apply it, you’re never going to know what you’re really good at … until you actually do it. Then you’ll know. But not while your sitting here.
6.) You can’t learn your weaknesses.
You’ll learn an awful lot about yourself after your first couple of years in EMS. One of the most valuable things you’ll learn about is your weaknesses. The prehosital field requires such a diverse skill set that you can’t hide your weaknesses.
If you don’t like talking in front of crowds, you’re going to find out. If you’re a horrible speller, it’s going to haunt you. If you get frustrated reasoning with drunk people, brace yourself. You can’t hide your weaknesses in EMS. Just embrace them and work to improve. Until you go do it, you’ll never know.
7.) You can’t learn what things smell like, or feel like.
And you can only simulate what they sound like. Patient assessment really does involve all of the senses. Many details can be learned from the smell of a patients home and the sound of their breathing when you’re walking to the back bedroom. You can’t palpate a mass or hear ronchi online. You need to do it.
8.) You can’t learn patience.
One of the hardest things to learn in EMS is to be patient with people. Especially when they make bad decisions that involve you. When people wake you at 2:00 AM for something they could have taken care of at noon you need to be extremely patient. When folks are really sick but refuse your care, you need patience. When people are violent or aggressive or rude or drunk, you need to be patient. And you can’t learn that by reading about it in a blog.
9.) You can’t learn to trust your instincts.
The more experience we gain in the prehospital environment the more we learn to trust our gut and listen to our instincts about what’s going on. It guides our treatments, our scene management, our rapport and our safety.
We all develop this critical tool. Some develop it better than others. But you’ll never develop it sitting at Starbucks in front of a laptop. You need to be out there making mistakes. Having good calls and bad calls. Watching things go well and things go poorly. There’s just no other way to do it.
10.) You can’t learn to be authentic.
And no other single thing may have greater bearing on your success in EMS. People who excel in our field tend to be very authentic. You develop authenticity as you become more comfortable in your shoes.
You find that your willing to take charge when the scene needs your leadership and fall back when it does not. You learn to adapt your style to build rapport with your patient and your coworkers. You become more willing to admit when you don’t know what’s going on, to draw upon your resources and know that they are necessary.
You learn to drop the false bravado and act with genuine confidence. You make peace with the fact that you own your bad calls as much as you own your good ones. This is all crucial to the process of becoming comfortable in your EMT shoes. And it will only happen as you do the job.
Now you can turn off the computer and go begin learning.
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