During the course of everyone’s lives, we encounter unexpected change; both good and bad, and I believe although we can’t predict what’s around the next corner in our journey through life, we can do our best to be prepared for it. Although I’ve adapted and overcome many unexpected life changes in my career as a PhD student and engineer, my second job as a career Paramedic helps to reaffirm by belief of preparation on a daily basis. When someone calls 911 they are often in a “one of a lifetime” situation where they have to reach out to emergency services for immediate assistance. Despite call-takers best efforts, emergencies, by nature often get the best of the caller and calls are often dispatched as more serious than the actual situation. This isn’t too serious in the realm of adaptation or preparation; it just results in a quick change of focus once EMS arrives on the scene. However, by human nature once can easily become callous and make incorrect assumptions about the nature of the call based solely on dispatch information. Allowing oneself to slip into this behavior and change your preparedness for change can result in a critical error, because sometime calls are much more serious than the dispatch information; in these scenarios the unexpected can kill.
When I was completing my certification course as a Paramedic, there were two other providers who served as advisors by example who taught me to not “rest on my laurels” when it comes to patient care. Both my regular partner and supervisor would often share in the sometime amusing discussions of the “difficulty breathing: patient barely breathing” call that turned out to be a cut on the finger, with no respiratory compromise. However, both would go into every call anticipating the worst, and always keep themselves mentally prepared for the worst situation possible.
During my first week I was dispatched to a car accident on a small local road that had a speed limit of 25 MPH. Most often these are small fender-benders with minor injuries and there was nothing in the initial dispatch information to indicate serious injury. Heeding my partner’s advice I maintained diligence with my thoughts on possibilities of the situation on our way to the call. The scenario that met me at the scene couldn’t have been easily imagined. The teenage driver of the vehicle was traveling over 50MPH on the small road and went off the road, destroying the car, and rendering the passenger, another young teenager unconscious and unresponsive. Due to the lessons learned from my two mentors, I was easily able to “change gears”, begin providing life saving interventions to the patient in the vehicle while the fire department preformed the extrication, and then rapidly sedate, intubate, and stabilize the patient while enroute to the hospital. The teenager nearly fully recovered from their injuries, and I feel without being prepared for the unexpected, that the patient would have suffered from lower quality of care, and could have sustained more serious injuries.