Words by Holly Simmons
Student paramedics begin their preparation for placement the moment they step foot on campus. However, it only begins to feel real when the anxiety kicks in the week before you’re due to start. Questions circulate in your head such as, will my mentors like me? What if my skills aren’t up to scratch? Or the dreaded, what are the contraindications for that drug again? This is when the nerves really set in.
In this profession, every day is unlike the last and every patient is unlike the next. Even with all our preparation, it is the uncertainty of that next case that strikes a chord once a shift begins. This is what got me thinking. How do we as students prepare and identify the need to adapt our methods to suit every possibility? My first placement was not what you would call ‘exciting’. There were no cardiac arrests, major traumas, and /or births etc. Yet these are the cases we are trained specifically for, our crème de la crème. However, what I was exposed to were socially complex and challenging cases, mostly in the mental health domain. This challenged my communication skills more than what I had anticipated. It became clear to me quickly that the ability of a paramedicine student (or paramedic for that matter) to adapt their method of communication to each individual patient was paramount. Yet this is a skill that is not emphasised nearly as much as those in your ‘exciting’ cases.
So instead of sitting in the patient care seat on placement twiddling my thumbs in silence, I asked myself how I could adapt quickly and comfortably? From what I’ve experienced, emotional maturity, the ability to read social cues and general communication skills are a must. However, our systematically based DRCABCDE approach only goes so far. It’s the psychological and humanistic approach that needs to be adapted, learned, and utilised, however in my limited experience, our training does not seem to cover this in enough depth. Even sitting here on my first placement writing this, I felt the need to have an answer. However, I don’t. But I believe the answer really is that there is no "one" answer. These cases are complex, and our approach will always need adaptation depending on the situation. I think from my experience, that really is the beauty of this profession and ultimately what makes a great paramedic. Regardless of responding to the ‘exciting’ cases or possessing all of the clinical theory required, a great paramedic continually develops and adapts their approach through their career. This is how I began to work my way through these cases and how I observed my supervising paramedics provide the best patient care possible during our shifts. So to conclude, whilst my placement challenged me, it was the communicative and adaptive skillsets in conjunction with clinical theory that challenged me the most. It truly ignited a fire within me to become comfortable with adapting to situations that make me feel uncomfortable and to always adapt/enhance my methods to provide the best patient care I can. That is the type of paramedic I aspire to be.