Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Influence of an Instructor

Jennifer's post made me think about my new EMT class starting in just one week. I've lost count, but, in 25 years, I've trained a lot of people and sent them into the EMS world as EMTs. I enjoy teaching EMTs even more than paramedics. They're a clean sheet of paper and are ready to learn, then, go out and save the world.

I'm proud of the way our class is run. When we started 12 years ago there was also a fire and police academy which held a rigid posture and high standards. We adopted it and still maintain it which is a departure from how most EMT classes are managed.

Kids right out of high school have a hard time wearing uniforms and realizing they will get locked out of a quiz if they're late from a break or don't have thier ID badge. Only when they leave do they understand why we do what we do to prepare them for the world of EMS. Some have become lifelong friends, and many I see again in the recert classes in subsequent years. They send me
e-mails to tell me they're at the top of their fire academy class and felt it was the discipline we gave them that got them there. I had a student who went to a disaster assignment during hurricane Katrina and was thrown into an experience that was way over his head. He told me later that the constant memorization we made them do on ABCs, CMSTP, AVPU, OPQRST, SAMPLE etc. came back to him when he needed it. I've watched my students become RNs, PAs, public health administators and ambulance company executives. One is a medical writer for a hospital system.

One of my most profound memories was walking into my class on September 12, 2001 to 50 wide-eyed and confused people. I realized most of them were too young to have ever had any threat to their basic sense of security. The age range was 18-62 and their reactions were all over the map. I had to wonder how the death of 300+ firefighters in New York was going to affect their career goals. Some left, most stayed. My critical incident stress management training kicked in and that day was about sharing our feelings of fear, and violation, and anger. Six weeks later my Disaster Medical Assistance Team was deployed there. Myself and one other student, a police officer, were gone for two weeks. It was years later before I realized the huge impact that had on my students. They were proud that we made that contribution and it gave them even more incentive to become one of the special ones who are part of the solution rather than part of the problem.

Do I get tired sometimes. Yeah. The "deer in the headlights" first night, the "high maintenance" individuals; the ones that have a tired excuse for always being late; the "minimalists"; the ones that always seem to know more of my lecture material than I do ... Out of each class, though, there are always a few shining stars. They are the ones I feel good about, the ones I know will make a difference. There are also the ones I watch struggling through the semester, but want it badly enough to fight for it. They have perservence and motivation. They come back 2 or 3 times, but are ready for the world when they eventually succeed.

Sometimes I'm lucky enough to learn where my students have gone with their lives, or that they were the ones to step up when a child was drowning, an old man went into cardiac arrest, or they need to triage a fatal head-on collision on Vasco Road. I can take pride in thier accomplishments. That makes it worth doing all over again.

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