Part of the EMT class I'm attending is having actual patient contact. Normally there are two ways of going about this, either time on an ambulance or in a hospital Emergency Department, so last night I spent 8 hours at the Skagit Valley Hospital. I can say, I was anxious but not nervous, I knew that if anything happened and I ended up in over my head, someone would get me out of the way or show me what to do. The anxiety stems from now dealing with real patients, people with real injuries and illnesses, not simulated scenarios, and they are complete strangers. When you're in the hospital with a family member, you are focused in on just what is in front of you, and generally speaking, there isn't much you can do but sit, wait, and listen. Now, I was putting on gloves and following nurses, doctors, and technicians around to provide real patient care. Upon arrival, we met Gene, the charge nurse. Gene was an old Navy vet who has been an RN for I don't know how long, but that department was unequivocally his during that shift. He was like a conductor of a symphony, directing doctors and other staff to where they needed to be, and also being there whenever there was any questions.
We also met Todd, the technician on shift that night. He's an EMT and fire fighter who is continuing his education while working shifts at the hospital. He gave us the grand tour, showing us all the various gadgets and gizmos (good proper medically terminology, eh?) and what to do when and where. After that they divided us up amongst different RN's since we had four students on shift from two different locations, which was unexpected. It was also a slow night, which is great for the general public, but not for students. We started shadowing our RN's around, mine was Alana, who started out down in Phoenix back in 2005. She also worked at another hospital to the south in Arlington, Wa., so she works several shifts each week.
Even though there were no traumas or major codes, it was still an amazing night for learning and putting "soft skills" to use. I was able to sit in on several procedures, help with vitals, move patients and just be supportive for them. The nurses all appreciated the extra hands, since we could run and grab certain items or help move or hold people if they needed us. Alana also went over charting and documentation with me, which is of the utmost importance in the medical field. They teach this at all levels of healthcare, "If it isn't written down, it didn't happen".
As the night wound down, my partner and I were experiencing fatigue, but we kept going until 7am. We both walked out with smiles on our faces, even if we could barely see straight. I may not have been able to dispense much in the way of hands on care, but I was able to dispense comfort and encouragement, and receive the same from many of the patients. I had a gentleman tell me it was a great thing to be doing what I wanted to do with my life before it was too late, and was thanked by his sister for being there to help care for him. My partner and I were thanked by another gentleman's wife for being there and helping care for him as well. It felt good, even though I'm not going into this field for praise and recognition, but to see that you may have made a little difference when one someone was having a really bad day......That was an amazing experience.