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April 13, 2019: A Tough Day

Today I assisted in the Wilderness EMT practical. This made for a long day, as did the good weather. I was assigned to the cervical spine unit. My first role was this: I was rolled onto a backboard, commonly known as a stretcher. My head was secured with a cervical collar I was then strapped in place with color-coded Velcro straps. Then, my head was further stabilized with two foam blocks and straps. After this was done, toweling was stuffed between my knees and lower back. My second role was this: I held the other patient’s head when she was being rolled and positioned on the backboard. It was my job to say “one, two, three” before the other assistant and the examinee moved the patient.

This sounds like a simple task but it was not. For instance, the examinees had to remember to run their hands along my spine when I was on my side. And they had to get all the straps just right.

The exams took place in the local Church of the Nazarene, in a small room that doubled as a play area for children and art storage area. There was just one window and one door. The window and door were closed the entire time so it was very stuffy. The room smelled like cat piss. And outside – the sun was shining brightly. We also didn’t get a lunch break, just small breaks, so I grabbed some salad between exams. The salad was

Alys strapped into a rope litter during WFR class
Alys strapped into a rope litter during WFR class

actually memorable – it was a spinach, raspberry, carrot, avocado mix.

I am not supposed to write about students and how they did because this would be a breach of confidentiality. Everyone who took the test passed their spine test. And everyone passed their overall exams. The results of each student’s test were posted on a white board, along with their name. It was like watching election results being posted. The students all did everything together – it was a very collaborative class so this seemed fitting.

I was ultimately very proud of them because this was a difficult task. They had seven practical exams and each one challenged them in a differing way. I was not that impressed with the examiner who was an administrative bean counter. She was out to fail students, not pass them. This as opposed to being out to pass students and not fail them. Yes, being an EMT is a very important job and people’s lives are on the line, so evaluative standards have to be rigorous. But rigor and gate keeping don’t need to be synonymous terms.

My overall experience in sitting in on this class and then today, being a patient and an assistant, was a real eye opener for me because I learned so much about teaching and about the evaluative process. Would I take this class? Most likely not. I am the sort who would view it exclusively as a challenge rather than as a future employment opportunity. I suspect that next spring, when it’s offered again, that I’ll be doing other things. I’d like to think that I have a book contract in hand and am finishing up a manuscript.

You just never know. This is all I know.


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