"Take a picture of yourself and put it on the refrigerator, so that your family can visit it when they miss you."
- Every Paramedic Instructor Ever
Congratulations to this year's EMT and Paramedic students!
Its going to be a fun year! You're going to learn a lot and be completely overwhelmed at certain points. My instructor told me on our first night of paramedic school that he wanted me to go home and put my picture on the fridge. He explained that it was the only way my family would get to see me that year! Its true. This is going to take some time, but its worth it. At the end of this journey, you're going to have something special. You're going to have earned a set of skills with which you can have an impact on the lives of your fellow man. Medic school is about shoving concepts into your head, fine tuning your understanding of the concepts, and then beating them into your brain over and over until they're a part of you. By following these few simple tips, you will save yourselves TONS of hours, TONS of mental gymnastics, and you'll be a better medic.
1. Preread. This is the biggest tip that distinguishes great medic students from those who just try to get by. If you're going over a chapter in class tonight... just read the chapter before you go in. Highlight what you think are the important points. This way, when the instructor goes over it in class, it's not the first time you have heard it, so it helps you understand the fine points better, helps you retain the entire subject better, and gives you the opportunity to clarify things that were foggy. The tendency in high school or other college classes is to get behind, then cram the bullet points right before the test. The problem is that this type of learning is that YOU DO NOT RETAIN IT! After the test is over, your brain will dump it. Then you have to learn it AGAIN for the next test and the final! You do not have all of these hours to spare. You can tell the people who do not preread the chapter, because they will be the ones with the confused face and saying "wait...what?" all night. Preread. Preread. Preread.
2. Do every skill as often as you can. Your EMT and Paramedic skills are lists! Just focus on a skill and do it over and over. Get comfortable with it. Whenever you hear the words "Who wants to go first?" ITS YOU! You want the first scary time, so you can really see where your at and how much work you need at the skill. Most people will want to "watch a few other people do it" first. This is NOT how real emergency medicine works. You need the practice and you need the pressure. You are going to make mistakes. You can make them in training, and risk being embarrassed in front of a group of students while you're in school... or you can make them in real life on real people. Beat it into your head. Go first. Then... when everyone is done, ask to do it one more time. When you have a break in class, do it again. You will find that the next time, you will be less nervous, and more in charge of the situation. Your magic words this year are "CAN I TRY THAT AGAIN?"
3. Ask early and often in clinicals. I have seen so many students come in and want to spend the day trying to be friends and acting like they are already good at everything. You might think they will be easier on you if you're nice to them and like the same things. DON'T DO THIS! If you're checking off the truck first thing on your clinicals... make yourself ask a question. "What's the difference in liter flow between a nebulizer and a nasal cannula?" Ask to practice a skill. Ask to do a medical assessment. Always go into a clinical to practice your skills with real paramedics and EMTs. DO NOT wait for the calls to come out. If you get good calls or patients while on a clinical, its a bonus. After each call, ask why they did what they did... even if you think you already know. It gives you a chance to see what they're thinking. Do not wait for the calls to practice your skills. Start in the morning. Ask what the hell perfusion really means. Ask them exactly how exactly Epinephrine works. Ask to practice doing a hypoglycemia call. Practice practice practice. When you do this, a magical thing happens: when they realize you're curious to learn, they explain MORE throughout the day on their own! You're a student on a 12 hour mission to learn about medicine from medics. Hunting and computers are great, but on your first clinical with a crew, establish yourself as a someone who gives a damn about what they're doing.
Every success is built on the ability to do better than good enough. The stuff YOU are learning in class will make a difference in the lives of REAL people. You WILL change lives. Dedicate yourself completely to your craft. Pre-read your material, practice skills as often as you can and be aggressive. MedicTests.com will be there with you all year to make sure that our students are the most prepared, most practiced, and most highly trained medics in the field. There is no "good enough" in this job. You must become great. This is not a job for the timid. You are worthy of this challenge.