Practical Personalities - Training - @

Practical Personalities


Steve Berry | From the September 2008 Issue | Tuesday, September 16, 2008

I could hear the hushed, frantic voices intermingled with the sound of squeaking tennis shoes approaching. I didn_t recognize the huddled mass as it moved toward me down the long, darkened corridor. The sun was entering the window in the same direction the mass was traveling and revealed only multiple elongated, shadowy silhouettes marked with an occasional flash of bright lightƒa beam no doubt cast by the reflective stethoscopes each member had around their neck.

Their pace slowed dramatically when they saw me peering at them with one raised eyebrow over my raised clipboard. I was leaning against a door that had only a hastily taped page from a three-hole, spiral-bound notebook with the words ˙Trauma StationÓ etched onto it with a Sharpie to identify what was behind it. They looked at the door as if it held the key to their future, purpose and self-worth ... and they were right.

Uh, oh, I thought, now recognizing the faces without the sun_s glare masking their identity. Of all the students in this EMT-B rotation class (#264,256), they couldn_t have picked a worse combination of conflicting personalities to work together as a team for their final course practical station scenario.

There are people in this world who feel pain, and then there are people who cause pain. All four of these students were indeed a pain in the gluteus massimus throughout the three-month course. Fortunately, the vast majority of students we educate get it and become qualified enough to begin theirEMS careers as inexperienced but competent providers. Most of you out there, however, who have taught EMS for any length of time, can recognize, identify and categorize predictable patterns and behaviors of certain individuals who consistently stimulate an involuntary response of the oculomotor nerve (third cranial nerve), thereby resulting in an upward orbital rotation in all students and faculty.

The four ˙certain individualsÓ approaching me were ...

Teenager Todd: He_s just out of high school and has wanted to be an EMT ever since he saw an ambulance blow through a red light while driving Code 3. With no life experiences or exposure to the real world, he prefers patient assessment and treatment by the neon numbers of the latestEMS technology. He_s the first to run into potentially dangerous scenes. He salivates when given the opportunity to use his trauma shears or physically restrain a patient. How to drive him crazy: Give him a scenario where there_s nothing wrong with the patient.

My Turn Mary: Her children are now fully grown and out of the house. This is her last chance to make an impact on the world. (If she makesEMS a career, she has an 85% chance of becoming divorced within a year.) She_s an overachiever and wants everything orderly. Mary becomes very upset when the patient doesn_t follow textbook medicine and always looks like she_s about to throw up. Although usually very compassionate toward her patients, she lacks confidence and will cry if failed on a station. How to drive her crazy: Give her a scenario where the patient is impolite and uses foul language.

Stepping-Stone Stan: He sits in the back row on the first day of class wearing his fire or fire/rescue T-shirt with his arms folded. He has to become an EMT if he wants to remain active or be promoted within his service. He has a consistently deadpan, uninterested expression. During practice scenarios, his only actions are to ask if the scene is safe, show you he_s wearing gloves and offer to get the cot. How to drive him crazy: Tell Stan he has to keep his multiple pagers and radios turned off during class.

Degreed Deb: She always sits in the front of class reviewing course text and notes (even during breaks). Deb argues every question she gets wrong on a test or quiz and asks questions to answers she already knowsƒjust waiting for the instructor to make a mistake or miss an important point. She viewsEMS as just a step toward a ˙realÓ medical profession. How to drive her crazy: Give her a scenario where the patient doesn_t get better following her assessment and treatment.

I saved the best personality for last. You know the guy I_m talking about. He_s arrogant, overcommanding, aggressive, overconfident, intimidated by no one, has delusions of grandeur, never admits to his mistakes, and ... Wait, he_s the practical evaluator. Never mind.

Until next time, play nice.

Steve Berry has been a paramedic for the past 20 years in theColorado Springs area. He_s the author of theEMS cartoon book series I_m Not an Ambulance Driver. Visit his Web site atwww.iamnotanambulance to purchase his books.

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Related Topics: Training, Jems Lighter Side

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Steve Berryhas been a paramedic for the past 25 years in the southern Colorado region. He's the author of the cartoon book series I'm Not An Ambulance Driver. Visit his Web site at to purchase his books or CDs.


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