The Judge

As in all things, Fire and EMS are cyclical. New people come, learn through experience, get good at what they do, and pass their knowledge to the people who come after them. The seasoned veteran is invaluable in any organization, having the advantage of being both new, and old. New people are just new. But they too will get old, and they can get older graciously, taking with them lessons and experiences of the people who have done it before them.

With all the advances I have seen, (more accurately read about, Providence EMS is still emerging) one thing remains constant; it is people who respond, and people who act, and react. All the fancy gizmos and new medications and critical incident debriefings and better management styles and proper resources will not change one thing:

At the end of the day, we all go home alone.

It is imperative that experienced people show through their actions how best to navigate a long career that exists for the sole purpose of helping people who need it. Need is and always has meant different things to different people. One of the best and most important lessons I ever learned was how to stop being The Judge.

Its easy to respond to a call and instantly size things up, and then act according to your perception of what needs to be done. Its not as easy to take yourself out of the picture and decide what is best for the patient who needs you. Falling into the trap of repetitive care with little thought of the person behind the symptoms makes for a dull, uninspiring career. You (or I) may think the person having a panic attack needs to "quit hyperventilating" and "calm down," but the person having the panic attack has lost the ability to do so.

After two plus decades of treating cardiac arrest, stroke, diabetic emergencies, trauma and the million other reasons people need us, some of the most satisfying calls I have had involve people who simply needed some time to regroup and a sympathetic ear, maybe a little oxygen, or better yet, the illusion of oxygen, (an empty bag valve mask works wonders.)

These skills cannot be faked, you actually have to see the patient as a person to pull it off, and do what we are paid to do, make people feel better. And when you spend your days making people feel better, you will find that when the shift is through, you feel a lot better too.

Going home alone is much more satisfying when you take with you the memories of a job well done. You won't find that little bit of sage advice in a textbook, but look around and you will see the people who survive in this crazy world are the ones who have learned to be part of the human race, and not the ones racing through their days waiting for the big one, never stopping to see the person behind the patient.

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