My STEP project had two main parts. First, during the summer of 2018, I took a class at Columbus State Community College to obtain my certification as an EMT Basic. Then, the following summer, I was an intern at my local fire department, which allowed me to review the material I had learned the previous summer and understand more about what it means to be a first responder.
Before my STEP Project, I didn’t know much about how emergency services worked. I understood that there were different fire departments that were responsible for different areas of the city but didn’t know much about the logistics of each run. I didn’t know how it was determined who was sent on which emergency and about the different types of ambulance services. However, after the completion of my STEP project, I understood just how much goes into appropriately responding to an emergency in a short amount of time and how many people need to work cohesively for a run to go smoothly. In addition, I got to experience the different responsibilities that both private and public ambulance services have and how they operate. Every location that I went to during my certification and during my internship had paramedics, basics and firefighters that were more than willing to explain their roles and responsibilities to allow me to get a better grasp on what everybody did at the fire department.
In addition to having experiences in the field where we got to see paramedics with decades of experience treating patients, we also got to interact and perform assessments on patients ourselves, in preparation for the time when we would need to do it in the field when called to a scene. We had the opportunity to talk and assess patients in the emergency rooms of a variety of hospitals and through this opportunity, I was able to learn how to better communicate with a wide variety of people. I learned how to ask questions in such a way that they would understand what I was trying to ask and learned how to expand on specific questions in order to better determine what may be afflicting the patient. It was also a good opportunity to observe good bedside manner from some of the emergency physicians and was also a good opportunity to practice some of what we had learned in class in a low stress environment. The experiences in the classroom and out of the classroom, during the field experience and my internship exposed me to many different ways of thinking that both changed the way I approach certain situations and improved my communication skills.
Although we were taught and told all of the responsibilities one would have as a first responder and EMT, it was not immediately obvious until we were able to view current emergency medical personnel in action. Watching them talk to patients and bystanders to gather enough information to ultimately begin treatment put into perspective how much information needs to be retained. The EMT needs to continually explain to the patient what they are doing and why they are doing it while answering any questions the patient may have or anybody else may have about the situation they are in, while continually monitoring the patient and providing the appropriate treatment. Furthermore, the provider also needs to understand the current situation and recall the correct procedures and interventions that need to be performed to best help the patient. The professionalism of the paramedics that I was able to have the experience of riding with was demonstrated again and again and deepened my understanding and respect for those in the field of emergency medicine and those that provide treatment prehospital.
Throughout my STEP Project it could also be quickly seen that all age groups and types of people could be affected by medical emergencies and need attention. Previous to this, I assumed that there may have been specific demographics of the population that were more susceptible to medical emergencies, but anybody can experience an emergency, no matter if they are rich, poor, old or young. Often, throughout the 12 hours I spent at the fire department, we were called to assist people that needed help standing and walking, both because of how old they were and because of how young they were. Upon talking to the patients, it could be seen that they were just like everybody else but just had an unfortunate accident that required further medical attention and a trip to the emergency room. This broadened my perspective on patients and allowed me to understand that patients are just like the rest of the population in many ways.
With this in mind, it was also a mind opening experience to meet those that are responsible or would be responsible for responding to those emergencies if they were to ever arise. From the first time I stepped into the classroom and met my classmates to the first time I went to the fire station for my internship, it was a heart warming feeling to realize that emergency personnel are normal people. They are students, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, and everything else that you can imagine. They run, read, watch movies and eat junk food just like the rest of the population. They worry about the next test they must take and look forward to relaxing. Rather than treating emergency personnel with the view that they are different than the normal person, they should instead be thanked and embraced as apart of the community that they serve. It should be understood that they aren’t perfect and that they could need help at a point in their lives as well. During the certification we learned that there were many systems in place to help firefighters and other emergency personnel take care of their health and well-being. Better understanding those that work in the field further increased the respect that I have for emergency personnel as they are normal people that put their lives at stake to help those in need.
In having this multitude of unique experiences and having the opportunity to meet all of the people that I have met, I am better prepared for any future endeavors and will be much more comfortable in pursuing my desired profession. I have improved my communication skills which will allow me to better teach underclassmen and aid any that may need it. It has also reduced the anxiety that typically comes from speaking to somebody new or from speaking in front of a large crowd of people. Moreover, through having the experiences of talking and interacting with patients, I will be better prepared for the time when I will have to interact with patients as a physician. The understanding of all the responsibilities of emergency personnel and what happens in a busy emergency room will also aid me in remaining calm if I were to find myself in a similar situation in the future. Being able to become a certified EMT Basic and having the opportunity to intern at my local fire department will be experiences that I will never forget and will continue to influence how I interact with the people I meet in the future and the decisions I will make in the future as well.