Saturday, January 31, 2015

I haz Paramedic

This post is a bit overdue. I originally meant to write it last summer but due to reasons of which I will speak it didn't get written. Once it was appropriate to post I had simply forgotten until it just occurred to me that I had never brought closure to my Paramedic journey. So a bit of a recap. I started in Emergency Medicine in 2006 when I took an EMT-Basic course on a whim to see what it was all about. I graduated and didn't due much with that skill. When it came around for my 2 year renewal I discovered it was easier and cheaper to renew if I was actually running on a service. I started volunteering on a local ambulance service and the rest is history. Eventually I got hired for a paid EMT position. I progressed to EMT-Intermediate and I took the class for Advanced EMT although I never finished the written exam. More on that later.

Being a paramedic had always been in the back of my mind but in 2012 I realized I needed to get in the 2013 class at my local community college or it wasn't going to happen. Several reasons for his. They only accepted applicants once a year, my GI Bill eligibility would expire in 2014, and The National Registry of EMT was phasing out my current rating. It was go back down the chain or go up by 2016. So January 2013 found me sitting in the classroom as an new paramedic student. Fast forward 15 months and I graduated from the program in May of 2014 with a AAS degree in Paramedicine. That was all good and well but really only made me eligible to be nationally registered. The degree means I had completed the training I still needed to take the required practical (hands on) skills test and the written exam. Ask any Paramedic and they will tell you that theses tests are very difficult and definitely a right of passage.

The day of the practical I was nervous and very concerned about my performance. Not knowing exactly what to expect I had poured over numerous youtube videos in a final effort to cram for this hands on exam. I was really concerned about the static and dynamic cardiology stations:

As luck would have it I passed those stations with no problem. I did however have to retest the very last station I had tested. This was one of the oral stations where you were given a medical or trauma scenario and had to verbally relate in great detail how would handle the scenario, There were 2 of these stations during the test. I was surprised when they told me I had failed that station as I thought for sure I had done well. Good news was I only had to retest 1 station, bad news was I totally fell apart on the retest and was a no go. So this meant I had to pay another fee and drive 150 miles to retake the one station I had missed twice at the first available opportunity. So 2 weeks later I did just that. I was even more nervous than originally because now if I failed I would have to retest the entire practical after paying for a refresher class. But things went my way that day and I was in and out in less than 2 hours having passed the practical. I breathed a sigh of relief. But now I had to pass the written test.

Myself and National Registry of EMT written tests have a long and sordid history. These tests are adaptive meaning they base your questions on how well you are doing answering the other questions. They are also highly regulated. Here I write about my troubles with other tests:

NREMT EMT-I Practical

NREMT-I Written Exam

What I didn't write about was the fact that I took the AEMT written test 3 times and never passed it. I eventually stopped trying putting all my eggs in the paramedic basket. So I studied for my written test and when I showed up to take it I was apprehensive but hopeful. When I left the test center I really had no idea how i did. Well I bombed it failing 4 out of 5 sections. I was crushed. So I doubled down, spent money on a pay study site as well as the free one I already had. I gave it 4 weeks and tried again. This time when I left I knew I had not done well. I was not surprised at all to see that I had failed again. At this point counting AEMT and EMT-Intermediate, I was 1 for 8 in my last 9 attempts at an NREMT written test. Not very good odds. I was crushed and serioulsy doubting if this was something I could do. I had some long talks with a friend that I consider my EMS mentor and he told me some things that helped me feel better about the results but not the process. So I studied and studied some more. I approached the test center to take my last and final chance with the confidence of a gnat. As I answered questions I was feeling more and more confident however. This time was different somehow. I actually started getting optimistic. After the test I hoped against hope. I tried not to think about it for 36 hours until I forced myself to check my account to see if I had passed. Miracle of miracles I had passed!! I finally was a paramedic. Things have moved swiftly since then, I am working as a paramedic at 3 different services on a PRN basis. I still have much to learn OJT but my long academic journey is over.

Sunday, January 11, 2015


I took a class today. It was an emergency medical class for "experienced advanced level" providers. I could very loosely be put in that category. However in my mind only loosely. I obsessed over the class, I studied and worried about failure and embarrassment. It caused me sleeplessness. It ended up being fine in the end and I passed with no issues. But it was another selection event. Events I put myself through on a regular basis, I am not sure why.

I went through Special Forces Selection and Assessment way back in 1990. Without getting into the gory details,details of which I am still not supposed to talk about, SFAS was one of the events that shaped my life.  Selection is a pretty open secret. Discovery Channel even did an hour long special on it. However I did sign a document saying I would not divulge what happened so, I will not, but here is a link if you are curious . Anyhoo ever since then whenever I do something difficult or outside of my comfort zone I refer to it as a "selection event."

These events take many forms. Sometimes having a difficult but necessary conversation with an employee is my selection event for the day, sometimes talking to a client, or trying to sell some business.Sometimes my selection event has to do with academics as it did today.More often than not the event involves something physical. I run ultra marathons, but trying to fit the training in around the rest of my busy life often becomes an event unto itself. I recently started participating in Crossfit which at 51 years old is really outside my comfort zone. I try to train and keep up on my defensive tactics which can also be embarrassing or difficult when you can't control your fine motor skills as desired.

But why? I once had a psychiatrist tell me I had low self esteem. This was after I took the Minnesota Multi-Phasic Personality Index (MMPI) to get into The Special Operations Target Interdiction Course or more commonly called SOTIC or "sniper school". I ended being the honor graduate of that course despite her assessment. It is a fact that I often don't feel like I belong in the company of the people of which I am associated. On the surface I have an impressive resume but in reality I don't feel I deserve to even be mentioned in the same breath as most of the excellent special operators, paramedics or LEO I have worked with. Maybe that is what low self esteem is all about. All I know is I have this constant desire to test my boundaries and prove to myself I can conquer whatever obstacle I see, real or imagined. Self created or not.

On the other hand I also think by constantly putting myself through selection I make myself stronger. If you don't self select then you become weak and complacent. The weak and complacent wither and die. Am I as strong, fast, or skilled as I used to be? Nope but I am stronger, faster and more skilled than I would be if I just sat around watching TV. In the words of the immortal Toby Keith " I ain't as good as I once was ,but I am as good once as I ever was." So selection goes on. Life is a selection event, Life is an endurance event. I leave you with my favorite poem by Dylan Thomas.

Do not go gentle into that good night

Dylan Thomas1914 - 1953
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.