Trau·ma  Junk· ie  ( 'trau-m&  'j&[ng]-kE) n. Slang
  1. One who has an insatiable interest, devotion or addiction to responding and assisting people with serious injury or shock to the body, as from violence or an accident.

EMS: My Observations

As I've called myself a trauma junkie from time to time, many of you have probably wondered why I chose Respiratory Therapy as opposed to Paramedicine. The answer? I honestly don't know.

Nothing is more gratifying to me than managing a patient's airway. It has been said a time or two that, "If you aren't breathing, you aren't doing anything else." I love what I do as a student RT, but I have another love, a new found love, and that is EMS.

Recently, I had the pleasure of doing two separate 3rd rides with a well-known blogger, Epijunky. For those of you who don't know much about EMS, a third ride is basically where you ride along for a day on a truck with two certified Emergency Medical Technicians and observe for a certain amount of time.

Let me tell you-- my experiences on these two separate days were amazing. The first day I rode was basically uneventful. We were working a racetrack and posted outfield in case anything went wrong in the stands. There were no emergencies and no accidents this day, but it allowed me to see what EMS is like on "slower" days. Through working at a hospital for the past 5 years, I've come to realize that slow days can sometimes be just as rough as the busy days-- and if you can handle the slow days where you want to shoot yourself, you know you can do the job.

The second day I rode with Epi and her partner went a little something like this:

1040: Arrived at the station 20 minutes early for the shift.
1045: Truck inspection. We made sure the truck was stocked properly to handle any variety of runs we could take. Checked mileage, fuel level, and made sure the battery and lights were working. Realized we were out of nasal cannulas and C-collars. This would mean a trip to the main station to grab some supplies.
1100: Called dispatch to tell them the truck was in service, but that we'd be swinging by to pick up a few supplies before they gave us a run.
1110: Arrived at main station to restock. Epi and I run upstairs to talk to the boss for some reason, while her partner for the day heads to the supply room. Before she could tell them anything, they blurt out an address. "1157 Main Street. County run. " We run out the door, her partner with supplies in hand. He tosses them into the back of the truck and the doors slam. Trauma Junkie was on his way to his first run ever.
1118: We arrive at the scene, a private residence. The patient is already outside on a stretcher, and the local fire department proceeds to give us report on an elderly patient who fell in his bedroom. He feels dizzy. No history of CVA or TIA, but has chronic back pain. He is boarded and collared. We get him transferred to our stretcher and into the back of the ambulance.
1127: We drop the patient off at the ER. Give report to the nurses, grab a facesheet, and I learn how to make a stretcher. (P.S.- Never unfold the sheet all the way. This complicates things. Don't try to pretend like you know what you're doing to impress a certain girl EMT.)
1130: We're sitting out in the ambulance bay of the ER. Epi's partner is finishing his run report, and I'm drinking a soda. Epi proceeds to make towel rolls. I tell her that looks easy, try to do one, and fail. She laughs at me. "Let me do that." I can't do anything but agree at this point.
1140ish: Back in service. Head back to the station where we first started for the day. I listen as Epi and partner try to make sure they have everything done. Run report? Check. Facesheet? Check. Signatures? Check. Sunglasses? Check. You know...
1150: Arrive back at our station for the day. There's absolutely nothing to do at this point but wait to be called for a run. We turn on the TV and some guy is cooking bacon. They don't get many channels.
1230: Still nothing interesting on TV. I'm tired due to not much sleep the night before, but in no way am I brave enough to try to nap right now. (Yes, you can nap in EMS. Good luck finding time, but you can.)
1315: Spend some time walking around outside the station and checking the TV again. I play on my cell phone for a while. Quiet partner guy is on Facebook and checking prices for Macs. Epi and I both decide we'd like a Mac, but we're broke students, so we will stay Windows people for now. I try to crack a Macintosh joke, but it's really not all that funny. Silence ensues.
1400: I know they run their asses off most days and they're probably enjoying the slow pace of the day, but are we EVER gonna get another run? I think this in my head. I'm wise enough not to say it out loud, because that is when all hell breaks loose.
1430ish: We decide to grab a bite to eat. Before doing this, Epijunky has to call dispatch to ask if they have anything scheduled for us or if it is okay if we go "mobile" for a while. We find out there is a transfer scheduled for 1530, and decide to do it early. We'll eat later...maybe.
1500: Arrive at the hospital. Patient is being taken to a nursing home nearby. We come across your typical, run of the mill, type situation. The family wants to keep the patient alive and in the hospital although there is no medical reason for the patient to remain in the hospital. Etc, etc, etc.
1540: A decision is finally reached and we arrive at the nursing home with the patient.
1545: Back in service. Another transfer-- this time hospital to a hospice facility.
The next two hours and a half hours are spent without returning to the station. All of the runs are transfers, and we keep getting the runs the second we jump back in the truck after dropping the patient off. It's all kind of a blur, but I'd say we did about six runs in this time period.
1800: We finally catch a break. The shift ends at 1900 and we're about 30 minutes from the station. Can it be? Will we get to leave on time?
1802: A dispatcher calls on the radio. They have another transfer and it's out of district for our truck. The other trucks are on runs and are going to be for a while. The transfer is actually scheduled for 1830, but dispatch begs. "If you can get there early, I'm sure you'll still get off on time." I laugh. I've worked in healthcare long enough to know that means we will be getting off late.
1810: We arrive at the patient's home. She's to be transferred to hospice for comfort care. Her daughter is on the phone. The patient is resting in bed, wearing O2. She has a lot of belongings and things. Family wasn't expecting us early, so they are still sorta trying to ready her for her trip.
1845: The patient is in the truck. We proceed to the hospice home. We find construction, rain, and rush hour traffic. A family member is following behind us in their vehicle.
1900: At Hospice. We get the patient situated in bed, find her nurse, and say our goodbyes. Epi and I are both exhausted at this point, and I'm pretty sure her partner is too. We sprint to the truck. It's about 25 minutes back to the station.
1930ish: There are no more runs. We check to make sure everything is in order and that all the paperwork is done. FREEDOM!

Okay, so we didn't get to ride Code 3. There were no traumas. We never flipped the lights or sirens on. There were no chest compressions, no splinting of extremities, no bandaging wounds. So what made it so great?

Well, EMS is like family. In the short period of time that I got to work with Epi's partner, we became good friends. We talked about life, school, relationships, and other things. We were relaxed. Epi made me feel at home. There wasn't a lot I could do as a 3rd rider, basically nothing, but I did get the chance to do a few things, which only further convinced me that I love EMS.

Even when the day began to get stressful, we all kept each other grounded. If short partner guy wasn't cracking a joke when things got tense, I was. If Epi wasn't doing something goofy to keep us from becoming stressed, her partner was. I left my shift that day knowing that I made a difference.

I held hands with an elderly lady who was afraid. I made small talk with an older man who needed the distraction. I spoke to a guy who couldn't speak back, but I knew he could hear what I was saying. I made friends with a few nurses at a few hospitals. I reassured a patient that she was in good hands. I made people smile.

I'm attracted to EMS for the adrenaline rush that comes with coding a patient at 80 miles an hour on the freeway. I'm addicted to trauma. I absolutely love the fact that a 911 run can and sometimes will, challenge everything you know. I love being forced with making a split second decision that could save a life. I love the entire idea of this.

But, you know what? Sometimes it's not about blood and guts. Sometimes, it is about holding hands and reassuring your patient. Sometimes its about talking about the weather. It takes skills to perform during a trauma, but it takes a certain kind of person to have compassion and people skills.

I know that one day I will ride again and I'll see my fair share of emergencies. But, for now, I have seen a different side of EMS. A side I love almost as much.

There are a lot of things I want to do in my future. But after RT school, medic school is next. Maybe I'll work as an RT for a while before I go for my paramedic cert. Or maybe I'll go straight into school for medic after I graduate respiratory school. I may work as both, or I may do one or the other.

Whatever happens, I know that EMS has touched me. And I will touch EMS one day.

Thank you, Epijunky.

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