When I decided to take the EMT-B course, I didn’t realize quite how intense it would be. For five months, I spent around twenty hours a week on the program in addition to my commitments as a full-time student. Each week included 8 hours of in-class time, plus numerous hours spent studying. Periodically, we had full-day Saturday classes dedicated to practicing hands-on skills. In the month of November, I completed forty hours of clinicals — sixteen in the emergency departments at Grant and Riverside, and twenty-four hours of ambulance ride time near Grove City.
Despite the commitment, I would recommend it to anyone considering medicine. I only wish I’d enrolled sooner.
Most significantly, this course set me on the path towards my career goals. I liked medicine before, but coming out of this class, I am more sure about what healthcare is actually like. I credit this class to kickstarting my love of emergency medicine, and I’m now seeing myself as a future emergency medicine physician.
First and foremost, the course introduced me to foundational material. I genuinely enjoyed studying anatomy and some basics in physiology and pathophysiology. I loved getting an introduction to a variety of common illnesses and injuries and what basic interventions we can offer.
I also loved all the hands-on skills. The class taught me how to systematically approach any patient to divulge important findings and offer interventions in order of importance. This is the primary objective of the course: gaining a set of skills for working with patients.
I was most impacted by my clinical experiences. In my time in the emergency department, I started to think, “this is where I belong.” Nothing compared to observing the care team work the most critical patients. In the trauma bay, each member of the team has a clear, defined role, and they work like a well-oiled machine. Reinforcing what I learned in my EMT class, it’s all about the ABCs — airway, breathing, and circulation.
Interacting with patients helped me imagine myself as part of the care team. At first, it was intimidating. Another student and I would walk into a patient room and just start talking to the patient. My nerves eased when I realized how much the patients appreciate having an ear — it didn’t matter that we were students and that we couldn’t actually offer any diagnosis or treatment. I would listen carefully and compassionately, and practice my assessment, digging for potentially important findings. I never knew I would be so interested in the quality and location of abdominal pain!
A few patients deeply impacted me. A transgender patient made me think about my role in patient advocacy. The patient was misgendered and deadnamed a number of times by his family and healthcare staff. I thought about how I could treat such a patient with utmost sensitivity, especially since seeking healthcare can be challenging in those circumstances.
Another patient made me think about ethics. She had pregnancy-induced high blood pressure. She was shaking, had a terrible headache, and was unable to engage with her surroundings. On top of that, she was ordered to have an invasive procedure. Perhaps she wouldn’t have minded five extra people in the room — between myself, my classmates, and my preceptor — but she wasn’t asked. As much as I want to see everything, I don’t take my ability to observe as a given. I want my involvement to be respectful of the patient’s dignity and comfort. It didn’t feel right with how vulnerable she was. I felt relieved when the patient was moved to a new floor instead.
I leave the program feeling confident about my ability to enjoy both textbook and hands-on learning in medicine. Even more importantly, I feel lucky for the time I spent with patients. I’m starting to see how healthcare intersects with my passions as well as my values. Moving forward, I plan to work as an EMT-B for MedCare next semester, and I’m excited to apply to medical school this summer.