Hi, I’m A Paramedic

Image Hello and welcome to my blog! Before I get started I have a short disclaimer… 1. Sometimes I swear. A lot. I blame it on the fact that I was conceived during my father’s trucking days. There are also times when words like “shoot” and “dang” are simply not adequate to convey my feelings. I will try to remember to use an asterix*, which will magically make it less offensive. Ok? So no one be offended. 2. I am a bracket junkie (see, brackets.) 3. This is an opinion blog. MY opinion blog. I would love to hear your opinions too, but please be tactful and at least TRY to make them evidence based. If you want to rant about some stupid sh*t, pick a random video on youtube and have-at-er. 4. All HIPA rules and guidelines will be followed. You will never know the people I’m talking about related to my work. Trust me, don’t ask. Now that we are all friends here, I’ll start with the question you will ALWAYS be asked when you join a profession. “Why did you decide to become a so and so (insert professional designation)?” I was first asked this question when I became a certified teacher in 2009. It was a practice interview question. It was hard to answer. “I love kids” seemed cliche. “I like helping people” was overdone. Truthfully, I had become a teacher because I had always been one, and I didn’t know what else to do. My practice started with my little brother, drilling him with times tables and pie graphs before he started elementary school. I peer tutored, I did co-op as a TA (teacher’s assistant), I got offered a great scholarship into a good University that resulted in my B.A, and my B. Ed. Becoming a teacher seemed like a natural progression. I then moved into the “real world” of employment. And when I say moved I mean I dodged the rat race of Ontario and headed for sunnier skies in Victoria, BC. For a few months I taught at a private art school while living (partying) on a sailboat in the harbor with my bestfriend. I taught rich, well behaved kids how to paint, draw, and sculpt. It was a dream job but the pay wasn’t dreamy. Through networking I landed myself a Mat-leave (someone got a baby, I got a job) teaching kindergarten in a public school. The pay was something I could actually live on so I accepted and moved again, this time wayyy up north in Alberta. I was the only white kid in my class- which resulted in some culture shock after growing up rurally in central Ontario. I was put in charge of twenty-five 4 and 5 year olds, an age group I had zero experience with. “WTF am I doing here?” crossed my mind often. I endured phases of incredible loneliness, marginalization, utter confusion and depression. Eventually normalization set in and I made a few friends in the Cree community, but the teaching remained hard. Lesson planning didn’t come naturally, being stuck indoors drove me nuts, lack of adult speak bored me, and constantly wielding the hypothetical whip as disciplinarian/authoritarian made my exhausted skin crawl. I gained a new appreciation for my mother, and everyone else who has ever raised a child. I wasn’t terrible at it, I really did love my kids, but I was not jumping around with enthusiasm when the school bell rang either. Image (Second day teaching, 2009) Then three things happened and it all seemed to fall apart (together?). A fellow teacher, a female, 5 feet short (same as me), started talking about her work on the local volunteer fire department. Wait, what?! Five foot nothing….female….fighting fires…driving fire tttrucks!? I have always had a secret obsession with firefighting (not just because hardworking men in uniform do it for me). A friend of mine is an Oakville firefighter, and he actually DOES jump around with excitement when he gets a call and the tones sound. I mean this guy LOVES his job, he is all fire- all the time. He took every extra shift he could, participated in firefighting Olympics, bought the t-shirt and was getting the tattoo. His stories were full of excitement and passion. I didn’t know people could feel that way about work!!?!  I decided there must be something to it and signed myself up for probation. At about the same time I joined the fire department, my father got sick. It was the first time he had EVER been sick (to my knowledge). He was kept in the hospital receiving blood to treat a severe bleeding esophageal ulcer. It would take over 8 units to start to bring him around. It scared me, him, my whole family. He was ending phone conversations with questions like “What do you want to do with your life?”…. It absolutely killed me to 3 provinces away. I felt useless until I flew home to check him out myself. Thankfully everything turned out fine, but I had come to understand the meaning of mortality. No one, not even you, gets out alive. Image My parents and I (2011) Two months later Dan, a very close friend of my brother and I died in an MVC. Some jerk had videotaped part of the rescue/recovery and put it on the internet. My morbid curiosity made me watch it and consequently the images are permanently burned in my brain. However, I am fairly certain it was sometime during the week of funeral arrangements that I began to realize I wanted to be one of the people who was there to help during emergencies. I couldn’t be there for my dad, or my friend Dan….but I could be there for other peoples’ fathers, friends, and family. And I knew I could be good at it because I knew how I wanted MY friends/family to be treated during that time. Image Dan and I (2009) With all the drama in my life, some of which I have mentioned, I began to develop PTSD. Volunteer fire was a great outlet for keeping me grounded. The work fueled my sad, muddled soul. Being challenged in new ways kept my mind busy, and I loved being part of the EMS family especially in light of the fact I was so far from my own. I fit-in in a way I wasn’t able to at school. The people working in EMS “got me” unlike my students or teaching staff (come on, we are all a little dark, twisted, type-A, and off side on a good day). Together we fought grass fires, dump fires, forest fires, structure fires, attended MVC’s (motor vehicle collisions), false alarms (high school, exam time), and search and rescue missions. Medical calls were always my favorite. With only two ambulances covering our town and long transport times, the department was first response when the crews were busy. Don’t get me wrong, I loved putting the wet stuff on the red stuff and tearing cars apart, but it was the people we helped not the buildings we saved that made me clamor out of bed at 2am on a school night. My students would come to know if I had been on call the night before by the state of my hair (and smell). Image Edmonton Fire Chiefs Convention (2011) Eventually I made friends with an EMT (emergency medical technician) who offered to take me out for some ambulance ride-alongs. Alberta was still allowing citizens (no criminal record pending) to volunteer on the bus with just first aid/CPR training. Yay more calls!! In the words of my new boss, this is when I officially got bit by the proverbial paramedic bug. I was totally hooked on being the first person to show up to someone else’s bad day with the chance to make it better (maybe not ALL better, but a little more tolerable). I paid to do my EMR certification in Calgary over Christmas holidays and was designated as one of the medics on the fire department. (See photo below….yes, that is me on the hood of the car doing an assessment during extrication training 2010) Image So back to the original question, “Why did I decide to become a paramedic?” Because, cliche or not, I truly love helping people. I finished my PCP (primary care paramedic) course in January of this year, passed the AEMCA (a nationally recognized advanced emergency medical care assistant exam), and scored a job working for a private ambulance service in Saskatchewan. I finished my orientation yesterday and had my first on-call shift last night. I am writing this blog with the intention of promoting the work of paramedics (it’s a considerably young, often misunderstood profession). I also want to help EMS students understand some of the struggles they will face both in school, landing a job, and on the bus. It is not an easy road but in my experience totally worth the effort and rewards. I encourage feedback and would be stoked if others made this a place to share their tips and tricks! Enjoy and stay safe out there. Vanessa aka: Medic15


9 thoughts on “Hi, I’m A Paramedic

  1. Hey =), somehow I came across your blog by looking for PCR samples =P, and I am very glad I did, please keep updating your blog because it is very interesting to read =D

    Paramedic Student in the province of Quebec

  2. Thanks for following! You may be my first fellow medic! I’m honored. I talk a bit about my medic stuff, but most it’s just about my life as a middle aged woman. Hope it’s not too boring for you! Ha ha.

  3. Hello Vanessa,

    I am a big fan of your posts. I am considering to pursue paramedics as a career and am applying to schools in Ontario. I have read every single one of your blog posts and I have completely enjoyed them.

    After struggling to finish up my bachelor of science and having worked in a few science labs, I have found the jobs and field very dry and routine and wanted to find a job where I can directly help people in a health-medical, hands-on field..

    I’ve been conducting very thorough research in the paramedics career, given my anxious and perfectionist self; not wanting to mess up my career choice again. And would like your view on the job. Since I can relate with most (if not all) of your perspectives on things- the “be like a duck” analogy, “face problem :)” etc.. I believe you could be a great mentor to help me view the rewards and the difficulties of the career that I may face if I chose to pursue it.

    What is your overall satisfaction with the job, do you feel you are really helping people, and how do you deal with tragic trauma, high-pressure situations, rigid protocols, etc.. Is there any routine in it?
    Any other input would be greatly helpful.

    Thank you,

    Your fellow stop-and-smell-the-flowers earthling

    • Hello earthling!
      Sorry for the lack of speedy response, it has been hectic at work these past few days. Thank you so much for your kind words, I am very flattered. Sometimes I feel like I am sending my thoughts out into the empty universe. haha. Would it be ok if I used some of your questions to frame a posting in itself? I’m thinking something like “Dear Diary”…As you can guess I have a lot to say on the topic but I think it will take some time to frame it properly. 😉

  4. Yes! Please do. I think it’ll be a great post to add to the collection.
    Thanks. I’m looking forward for more of your posts.

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