Monday, August 09, 2010

Teaching And Learning

As most of you know who follow this blog, I was promoted back in June - I am a Field Supervisor. It is part-time as I do 24 hours on a truck and 16 running the show.  For all practical purposes, that means when I’m working on the days that I’m scheduled to function in that capacity, I am in charge. I manage resources, usually anywhere from 10 to 14 trucks on a given Saturday. I take care of administrative tasks and what may seem as to be mindless stuff that really does mean something to someone. I ensure that crews have what they need to do their job. And I respond to calls.

Probably one of the things that I seem to do more of lately is teach. But what does that really mean? Do I teach people how to do their job? Sometimes I suppose it does mean that – there are people that I encounter who probably have less experience coming in than they should have, and it is up to us who either supervise or are in the position of being Field Training Officers (FTO’s for short) to ensure that our EMT’s and Paramedics – especially those who are new to the job – learn the right skills the right way. Sure, you can learn a lot in a formal program, but a program like that doesn’t always teach you what it is like when you’re by yourself or with a partner, doing the job without a net underneath you.

Sometimes I get to teach in a classroom. Most of the time, however, I impart what I know out in the field. Sometimes the question is asked, “what do you like to teach the most?” Another question I hear is, “as a brand new EMT, what is the most important thing you think I should know?”

Those are difficult questions to answer, because every skill we learn has a purpose, and there are times when each skill is appropriate to use and other times when they are not. Regardless, each skill is important. And you have to be proficient in all of them.

Of all of the things we are required to know, there are some that can’t be taught. In my view, what is most important to us falls in this category. I have talked about this in the past, and those who know me best are aware of my feeling about this particular subject.

You can be an expert at managing someone’s airway, a genius at calculating Dopamine drip doses in your head, and you can be a scene guru at a Mass Casualty Incident. But if you can’t show empathy to the people you take care of, you have no business working as an EMS provider. That, my friends, is probably the most important and least appreciated skill we possess. And, as I said, it is not a skill you can learn in a classroom or from a book.

When I was growing up, I learned a simple truth. Treat other people the way you would want to be treated. It goes a long way. And it really goes far when dealing with patients in difficult situations. Case in point: recently we had a patient who was pretty sick. Male patient, 85 years of age. He had a significant cardiac history, and he was a difficult stick. I think between my partner and me we stuck him a total of four times. But he was alert and aware of what was going on, and we told him what we were doing, every step of the way. We finally got IV access on the fourth attempt (collectively, of course) and were able to continue to manage his symptoms. And we remembered to treat him with the dignity he deserved. He appreciated that.

I remember thinking that if he were my father, I’d want to see him treated the same way.


HJSLT said...

While the two fields are very different, I could not help but think how similar your comments are to those I make when I first meet my student teachers. My job during their time with me is to teach them how to plan, manage and organize. But if they can't talk with kids and be with kids instinctively, all the work I do with them will NOT make them a teacher. When your job puts you in contact with people, PEOPLE always come ahead of any technical skills you use when dealing with them.

Saundra said...

I like this post!