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Balancing Full-Time Employment and EMT Training

December 16, 2011 Leave a comment

Twice a week I hurriedly change out of my business casual clothing and into my student uniform, scarfing down a granola bar as I battle rush-hour traffic to get to an evening EMT class. When I arrive, I’m always a bit tapped out. It’s a challenge to maintain equilibrium and find the gusto to all I need to.

One lesson I’ve learned in my current career as an educator is that my energy and sense of balance aren’t always the most important things. What’s important is my preparation and how I project myself. This may not be the traditional definition of attitude, but it’s the one that I like best.

As a student, I fall back on this lesson again and again. For example, my instructor is so good at teaching that I could probably get away with just skimming through my assignments. Instead I come to class having read the relevant chapter and taken notes on it. My preparation allows my instructor to go deeply into the concepts, spending time on anecdotes, examples, and demonstrations.

As for how I project myself, I may be on the verge of exhaustion, but what counts is that I slap a smile on my face, consume enough coffee to avoid dozing off during lectures, and participate even if it means wrestling focus in my tired mind.

Like any class, mine has students (a minority of the class) who project a sense of entitlement and fly by the seat of their pants, shocked by developments they’ve already been advised of. They grumble about everything from the fabric of our uniform shirts to the locations of our Emergency Department rotations and ambulance ride-alongs. Here’s my unsolicited advice to them:

Get over it. Or at least pretend you’ve gotten over it.

I drove an hour to my ride along, too. I detest how chunky my uniform makes me look. I too struggle at times to take it all in. I have a life outside this classroom, and sometimes I feel like I’m not paying enough attention to it. But each night I force myself to be pleasant, professional, and to keep my gripes to myself – as do the majority of my classmates.

Remember: that teacher you scowl at has mountains of seniority at the biggest ambulance company in our area. The lab assistants you talk back to are your future partners and supervisors. These people will have a huge impact upon your career, for better or worse.

Remember this, too: an EMT’s day is full of inconvenient weather, long hours, and situations that change midstream. You don’t have to be pleased by any of this (you may be a masochist if you are), but you roll with the punches.

As time passes, you may find that you’ve actually become more professional and more tolerant of the negatives of this fascinating, awesomely fulfilling field.

Bethany Annsa works full-time at Portland Community College as an Employment Specialist. She teaches career planning, sets up internships, and helps students find employment. In her evenings and weekends, she takes full-time classes (EMT-Basic and taking prerequisites for the Paramedic program).

Categories: emt, Uncategorized