Wednesday, December 30, 2009

What I've learned, 2009 edition

Some personal lessons from a very long year:

* The fear of rejection is much more debilitating than being rejected. If living in fear is slavery, then taking a chance is your liberation. I'll learn this lesson a thousand times; one of these days, I'll take my own advice.

* Following your dreams should always be painful and agonizing. That way, if you take your licks and stay on track, you know it's the right path. The reward is true happiness.

* I either don't understand love, or I don't understand women. Either way, money can't buy it.

* Soul mates exist. And no, you never really get over it.

* I realize now that I'm part social conformist and part emotional anarchist. That is, I often act within the boundaries of the group, but I never compromise my feelings. Those I own completely.

* Successful people learn how to solve problems, not seek blame for them. This can be applied to every aspect of life.

* Never talk shit. It's a fact that your target is in some way better or more talented than you, and you're probably just jealous.

* Journalism is dead. Americans killed it. Americans, and greed. I hope somebody revives it in my lifetime.

* Most people want to make a million dollars. I want to save a million lives. It's corny but true.

* The first time I glide a duel-lumen tube into somebody's esophagus, I'll know I've finally made it.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

EMT perspectives

I've concluded, based on what I've learned so far about the EMT experience, that one of the greatest road blocks to good patient care is an inability to empathize with the sick and injured. Undoubtedly, this shortcoming can result from any of several circumstances, be it complete burnout from dealing with horrible situations on a daily basis, skewed motivations for being a medic in the first place, or inexperience with the feelings of terror associated with the receiving end of a true emergency.

In short, if you can't empathize as an EMT, you're either sick of your job, too full of yourself to express concern, or simply can't conceptualize what it feels like to think you're about to die.

Inherent in this line of work is a tendency to feel excited about being involved in true emergencies, which carries with it a double-edged sword: In order to take part in a true emergency, somebody needs to be truly hurt. We hear medics -- both career and those in training -- excitedly tell stories about the latest mayhem as if they're comparing gleeful war stories. Does this mean these medics inadvertently enjoy seeing people in pain? Or do they just enjoy the rush of helping people get through that pain? Obviously, this career includes a hero aspect that, combined with the chemical reactions of high-pressure situations, can affect your mind like a drug.

I'll tell you one thing: The patient in crisis would be surprised to learn that his or her traumatic experience is just another exciting story for the medics. Then again, maybe the thrill of a call is what keeps people in this career sane long enough to retire.

I'm approaching this from the view of somebody who has yet to go out on a call or be exposed to an overly traumatic emergency situation. But I find myself getting eager about the prospect of seeing these things, and I wonder whether this is the right perspective to take. When it comes time for me to decide what kind of medic I'm going to be, I think I have to find a balance between my motivation to help people in a professional, skilled and empathic manner, and my urge to experience the adrenaline associated with crazy and gruesome situations. I imagine that if you lean too much one way or the other, you ultimately become an ineffective emergency provider.