The last five-six weeks have been a revelation of sorts. I started my ambulance practicum in a small town a few hours northeast of Edmonton, doing 24 hour shifts 4 on/4 off. Was I excited? If by ‘excited’ you mean I stressed myself out to the point of stomach aches, indigestion, acne, and insomnia…then indeed, was I ever excited.
I showed up at the hall the night before it started, met a couple of the medics and tried my best to sleep, but of course the insomnia wins again. I spent most of my first day pretty quiet (true story), met my preceptor, a 6’4″ guy my age, VERY nice and respectable. My first call with them was for a guy with incopacitating back pain. I was vibrating with anxiety, but somehow I managed to take an accurate blood pressure (be thankful for the small things, right?) and keep my wits about me on the call. After that, basically learned everything there was to know on a ambulance call.
After 5 tours (480 hours), I have come through with some fantastic calls, worked with some of the most patient staff in the field, and gained so much knowledge about people, the career, and the health care system.
As well as the fantastic calls, there have been strange ones, and funny ones. I have some examples from my favorite moments on calls, or in the ambulance…
The very first call they made me run was at 10pm at night, and my patient was a Hep C AND HIV positive, 6’7″ 300 lbs black (african-american? mmm not sure how to word that) guy in a jail cell. The RCMP opened the cell, and he immediately started cursing and swearing at me (and I’m so little for crying out loud!). I looked back at the paramedic, who motioned to me “ok, have at ‘er”. Gulp. He actually calmed down once I started talking to him, but as if nobody would be intimidated in that situation!
Then trying to do an IV in a patient while driving on a gravel road, who was going through alcohol withdrawals, he jumped when I tried to stick the needle in his hand (huge pansy) and so I nicked the vein, and blew through it. Sigh. His fault not mine. I put a bandage on it and put an IV with much less fuss in his other arm. When he tell me the first hand feels wet, I tell him he’s just imagining it, but I look down and what do you know…he has bled all over my pants and my boot. Patience, Sierra…remember to have patience.
The most disappointing thing I learned on the service is that no matter who your patient is, white, black, native, young, old…EVERYBODY LIES. Everybody’s only had one drink. Nobody has ever done drugs. Everybody always walks 25 km out of town to get home when they’ve been drinking (when really, they’ve rolled their car in a ditch a kilometer away, and think I don’t know what a seatbelt blemish looks like on their chest. Ya, ok buddy, I believe you.)
Funny story about THAT guy. Despite him lying, we spine-boarded him as a precaution, and loaded him into the ambulance, and started heading down the gravel road to town. A RCMP officer jumped into the back as well, behind the guy, in case he confessed about his car. Now, I had not practiced doing IV’s in a moving vehicle yet. Needless to say I was so nervous trying to start one on the guy with my preceptor AND a cop watching me. I poked him three times and couldn’t even start one! Frustration!! Well, once we wheeled him into the hospital, he confessed to drinking and driving. The cop was waiting in the hall with me and leaned over….
ME: “What’s up…?”
COP: “You know what my favorite part was? The part where you poked him…and then…you poked him again…and then you poked him again..”
ME: “ARE YOU MAKING FUN OF ME?!?!?”
COP: “No…I’m just saying…some of them need to be ‘poked’ a few times if you know what I mean…”
I think I’m gonna like this field 😉