We had the pleasure of hosting a school tour at our base this week. It was nice change since most of the people I see during shift are in their golden years as opposed to the green ones.
Before the students got to our base they were also touring the police station, the fire hall, and having ice cream. Afterwards, swimming at the pool. We, the tour guides, groaned a little about the bar being set unreasonable high. At the police station the kids got to see police dog in attack mode. At the fire hall they got to play on really big trucks and probably hang out with a furry mascot. We knew trying to be more impressive than tasty treats and free time was fallible. So how we were going to entertain the rug rats?
I had volunteered to be zipped into a body bag on the stretcher so I could give them a scare (memorable, right?!) but no one wanted to be accountable for potentially peed pants. Fair enough.
Our best option?
Toys. Lots of toys. And the ambulance happens to be full of them.
A pulse oximeter became a “finger hugger”. A BP cuff became an “arm squeezer”. The monitor became a word search puzzle. A bullet proof vest and our kits became tests of strength. Electrodes became stickers. A stethoscope became an ipod for listening to your body’s music. The stretcher became a comfy bed. The airway chair was a cool way to ride in a vehicle (backwards).
I really support kids getting a first hand look into EMS. If they ever really need an ambulance, a scary situation can be a little less intimidating; they know what our tools do, they know the people in uniforms are nice, and that the back of the unit is a safe place. On a more selfish note, it makes our future patient management a lot easier too. It’s also a great way to promote a better understanding of our profession with new generations.
Before their trip, the classroom teacher had the students write down questions they wanted to ask us on cue cards. (Love this education idea!)
However some of the questions were easier to answer than others. We tried to strike a balance between the truth, and what we thought they could handle.
“What is the best part of your job?”….Meeting new people! It’s exciting! Helping people!
“If you weren’t a paramedic, what would you be?” Hairdresser! Cop! Firefighter! (I was surprised when that came out of my mouth. I would have expected doctor, or emergency services manger…apparently I like pulling hose more than I realized.)
“How many people have you saved?” ……more than ten? Generally a “save” is considered someone who is resuscitated and lives to leave the hospital. But many of us see that as too narrow of a definition. Sometimes assisting someone IS saving them, even just listening to them can be their saving grace.
“What was your youngest patient?” Well we deliver babies in the ambulance sometimes, so newborns!
“How many babies have you delivered?” 7 between the 5 of us.
“How many dead people have you seen?” This question sent each of us poking around some of our darker days while trying to take a quick tally. I hope telepathy isn’t real or some of them would have nightmares for months. One medic said it best, “We’ve seen a lot of people die, but we’ve seen a lot more live.” Thank goodness.
“If I want to be a paramedic, what do I have to study hard at in school?” Science. Math. (One kid threw up his hands and said, “Guess I can’t be a medic!” haha. I hear ya buddy.) I also wanted to say something like volunteering? There isn’t really a “course” in school that focuses on developing people/social skills- arguably the most important part of the job.
“What’s the worst part of your job?” Seeing people who are sad. Seeing people in pain. Cleaning up.
“What do you do when you aren’t on call?” Chores, paperwork, clean, restock, study, eat.
One kid told us a story about his family calling the ambulance. Apparently he had bit his younger brother, and his loose tooth had got lodged in his arm. (Log cabin style dressing soaked in milk? 😉 )
As their tour came to a close we passed out stickers and coloring books as souvenirs.
Luckily, no one fell asleep.