Well, not quite a million, perhaps. But a lot.
If you've ever had the need for an EMT's help, you've probably experienced the barrage of questions we ask. And we consider it a really good start when you're awake, alert, and able to answer those questions.
Before our EMT classwork can start to talk about interventions for specific injuries or illnesses, it's important for us to identify what, exactly, we're dealing with. And while it's often easy to get the basics when you have a conscious and lucid patient, that isn't always the case.
EMTs are drilled to take a specific step-by-step approach, called assessments, in order to ensure we first focus on critical life-threats, and then (and only then) identify and prioritize other issues our patients may be having. These assessments break down to the Primary Assessment (done when we first arrive on the scene), the Secondary Assessment (which may be done on scene, in the ambulance), and re-assessments as needed or warranted by the specific issues and interventions being undertaken.
At this point in my EMT course work, we're starting to practice these assessment skills, linking signs and symptoms to the knowledge of anatomy we've been learning, before we move and transport patients anywhere else. And it comes with learning a bunch of mnemonics, such as AVPU, SAMPLE/OPQRST, and DCAP-BTLS (just to name a few), to ensure we don't miss any critical information.
The keys to providing effective care, however, requires us to understand human anatomy and how all the systems within our bodies both work and inter-relate. And while it is a major amount of stuff to learn, it's probably not much more than the average 8th grade health class or high school biology class.
... and we try not to drop them along the way.
Two weeks of class are under my belt, and I'm feeling kind of good. There is certainly a lot of material being covered, and a whole bunch of practical exercises so we can practice skills until they become second nature. Ashley even described the practical exercises as "fun," even while they are designed to get you to think critically about patient care, teamwork and communication.
And so it begins, not with a whimper or a bang, but rather with a 2-and-a-half hour orientation session last night. 24 hopeful future EMTs, split about 50/50 between men and women, from squads around Morris, Union and Somerset counties.
I'm taking my EMT course through Atlantic Training Center at the Morris County Public Safety Academy in Parsippany, although there certainly are many other training organizations offering EMT courses in New Jersey.
The key message last night was pretty simple: Becoming an EMT is hard work. Be prepared to put in the time, study, practice and study some more. Classroom lectures, reading assignments, online lectures and quizzes, in-class written and practical exams... plus 10 hours of clinical rotation in a hospital emergency department or with the Mobile ICU (MICU, aka paramedics). Clearly, this is not something you can coast through with some last minute cramming.
One instructor explained that they weren't there to help us pass the course. Their goals were to turn out the best EMTs possible, and while they'd be more than happy to help us when we need it or when we ask for help, but ultimately this has to be something that we, as students, really wanted to succeed at.
The goal, as he explained it, was to teach us to "act, not react".
Jon Alperin, one of our MFAS volunteers, shares his journey to becoming an NJ certified EMT.
from the Start
Here is Jon's journey, presented in time order: