STEP Reflection: Becoming an EMT

Name: Ankita Sarnaik

Type of Project: Artistic & Creative Endeavors – Becoming an EMT

For my STEP Signature Project, I decided to take a couple Emergency Medical Service courses over the summer at the NVCC Medical Campus so that I could obtain my certification as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). EMTs provide pre-hospital emergency medical care and transportation for critical patients who need immediate help. They have the basic knowledge and skills necessary to stabilize and safely transport patients ranging from non-emergency and routine medical transports to life threatening injuries. As someone who is on the “medicine track”, I wanted to gain exposure to a hands-on patient-care field like this one and be able to make a difference in peoples’ lives by learning about emergency medical care.

As someone who wasn’t really previously educated on pre-hospital emergency care, I walked into this summer thinking that these courses wouldn’t really be a big deal and that I would just be learning basic concepts such as treating minor injuries (scrapes, lacerations, etc.) and patient transportation skills. I feel like the popular assumption is that doctors and nurses at the hospital are the ones who do the treating and life-saving from the moment the patient is brought through its doors. No one, including me before this summer, really thinks about the pre-hospital care or what is done from the moment the patient is picked up to when they’re dropped off at the hospital. After taking this course, my views about EMRs, EMTs, and paramedics really changed and I learned how critical first responders really are to the vitality of people who are injured in one way or another. They are the first to have contact with the patient and it is up to them to decide how to proceed to preserve the patient’s life. That being said, this experience in turn taught me how to trust myself and my instincts and also how important it is to have confidence in yourself.

As soon as classes began, I learned very quickly just how fast-paced and critical this field was. The class was every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 9 AM to 3 PM. On Mondays and Wednesdays, we sat in a lecture hall and learned course material and on Friday’s we met in a room where we would practice trauma assessments, medical assessments, and various skills sessions endlessly. For the second half of the summer session, we would enroll in clinical sessions where we would actually be out in the field playing an active role in pre-hospital care. All of this would be to prepare us for our psychomotor examinations and our written tests in order for each of us to obtain our national certificate.

Now, for someone who is pretty shy and finds comfort in following rather than leading, being thrown into this kind of environment was pretty stressful and made me feel rather anxious. But with the help of my peers and teachers, I was able to take it one day at a time and master the material. As far as my self-confidence goes, after studying and practicing the material repeatedly I began to feel more comfortable with myself and started to fully trust myself and my instincts. Soon I was even able to lead the class in assessments and skills sessions.

When clinicals began, that same overwhelming feeling and panic began to wash over me, but I realized that everything I needed to know to succeed was right in my head and I just needed to stay calm and think. Clinicals were a great experience and preview for what I wanted to be doing for the rest of my life. We would either meet our paramedic lead on a one-on-one in the triage area of an emergency department or in the back of an ambulance for ride-alongs. I learned how to triage patients, which involved taking their blood pressure, pulse, respiration rate, weight/age, symptoms, and medical history. This really helped me visualize patients and learn how to talk to them as in the classroom setting, students just practice on each other. However, I think I took away most from the ride-alongs.

I remember getting our very first call. We were dispatched to a house of a 3 year old boy who had gone into anaphylactic shock (he had a allergic reaction to peanut butter) and his mother didn’t remember how to administer is epinephrine pen. We raced over there with lights and sirens while staying on the line with the mother. The paramedic was able to keep her calm and help her give the child the epi step by step. By the time we got there, his hives had stopped spreading and he was able to breathe again. We loaded the mother and the child up into the rig, hooking him up to oxygen and IV fluids, and transported them to the hospital. I was again given the duty of taking his vitals. I remember thinking to myself the entire time that this boy would have lost his life that day had it not been for the paramedic and the driver of the rig. That mother would not have been able to get her child to the hospital in time and she would have lost him. Furthermore, this is just one example of the kind of circumstance that occurs many times, every single day, all over the world. That realization was just incredible and reaffirmed once more that saving lives is what I want to do with my life.

It’s true when they say that there is no greater joy that the one you feel when you manage to help those in need. Seeing the look on the mother’s face when her son was able to breathe again or even his own face when he was no longer feeling pain or discomfort was priceless, and just being involved in the process of making that happen is incredible. It also just reinstates the concept that life is so precious and it shouldn’t be taken for granted. I’m very thankful for the STEP Signature Project in allowing me to gain exposure and have this experience because it allowed me to conquer my fears and grow as an individual, contribute to society and a greater purpose, and understand what I want in a career and how I want to spend the rest of my life.