Sunday, June 20, 2010

Rule #1: Go Outside if You Have to Cry

I've been taking an Emergency Medical Responder (EMR) course for a few weeks. It's one evening a week plus a couple of weekends. I've been taking it for a variety of reasons... someone told me it was "just advanced First Aid" and I thought it might be helpful since I have the soon-to-be-4-year-old accident prone child and I want to go on a mission in the spring and having someone with a bit of medical training would be handy when you're in Malawi or wherever we're going to go...

I really want to do well. I love learning and I love applying knowledge that I've learned to build new skills. And I love a challenge. I really respect the instructor, he's pretty animated and tough, but he's been doing it a long time and knows what he's talking about inside and out.

So far I'm doing well in the written and online tests, but the other half of the class is practical hands on knowledge. I can do all the vitals pretty well but this weekend we really started the scenarios...

... and it did not go well.

A scenario is a staged trauma scene and the lead medic (me) has to run the scenario (advanced first aid my left butt cheek...)

The first one did (rollover, pt walking around at the side of the road), I probably got about 80-85% or so... but that was with a medic from the field and looking back, he let us talk more than we should have (the helper was not supposed to talk at all, ONLY the lead medic). My second scenario (car accident with a patient that has walked to a local farm house) was with the instructor and I'm pretty sure I could not have screwed up more if I tried.

I was on the hot seat, under the spotlight... it was worse than one of those dreams where you went to school one day and discovered half way through that you were naked. I pretty much killed my patient and to be honest I was kind of glad she was dead so the scenario was over!

Then I spent 20 minutes crying in my van.

It wasn't like I was the only one who had a hard time. Everyone did. Our instructor said the gloves would come off so he could find our deficiencies and where we needed to improve. But it was still a crappy way to end a two and a half day weekend... I had just started thinking I didn't suck.

Because I am who I am, I've spent the last 7 hours going over in my head how horrible it was - I'm trying to stop that tape in my brain that says "you screwed up because you are stupid", "you can't fix stupid", "you're never going to get this". Quitting is not an option so my level of dread has increased significantly knowing I have 7 or so more weeks of this pain.

I realized while talking to one of my classmates this evening that during the scenario I was feeling beat up, I felt there was no way out because I'd made a few bad decisions at the outset and now, basically, my instructor was going to screw me over. (He's warned us that if we make stupid mistakes that we'll see those bad decisions come back to haunt us later in the scenario.) So my mind was saying "you can't win this, you can't figure it out, he's got you... you don't know what you are doing, whatever you say it's going to be wrong".

In fact, the whole thing kind of reminded me of an abusive relationship I was once in. I say relationship NOT in an intimate way but in a professional one. I used to work for someone who was quite abusive due to some issues he had, but I stuck with him because it was a good job... by the time I left I had a stutter. I could never do or say anything right. I knew every look that meant "you're stupid".

That's what this felt like.

I don't mean to say that it's the instructor's fault. Not at all. He's excellent and the school is well known as being the best. He's doing his job, this is serious business. People can and will die. He doesn't even say anything mean... it's just, I don't know... an expectant LOOK he gives, combined with my inner soundtrack (the one I thought I'd erased long ago and apparently has been on the back shelf, only to be played during times of STRESS).

I was so surprised by the words that were popping up in my brain during and after the scenario. I am tough on myself but I was a teenager the last time this soundtrack played and I'd hear "you're no good, you won't succeed, you can't do it". Does that freaking soundtrack ever go away? (I mean, first it's probably on a cassette tape I recorded off of the radio... )

I'm happy I didn't cry IN the class. That would have really sucked. I was sweating and flushed and panicked, but I didn't cry. (I'm pretty sure the sweat was really just suppressed tears, at least that's my theory.)

The best part of the whole thing was that these scenarios were NOT formally being marked in class. Thank you, God.


Heather said...

awww Hugs! Believe it or not, this is what the training is for. You're supposed to screw up...that's how you learn. It's supposed to be stressful, it's supposed to be scary. Learning how to deal with the emotional part is just as important as learning how to fix the accident victim. You're going to make it, hang in there :)

Divawrites said...

Hugs. I know a little something about that kind of soundtrack, and I know about working in a professional situation that sucks the life out of you and leaves your confidence in your knowledge and abilities in tatters. You had a stutter. I had hives and high blood pressure.

Emergency First Responder is what people who want to become paramedics take. I wrote a manual for the American Red Cross a couple of years ago for Emergency First Responders. That ain't no advanced bandage 101. It's a tough course.

You will succeed. Stubborn and determined can trump pretty much anything. Takes one to know one.