Neal Hayhurst ’21 — This summer, I had the opportunity to work as an EMT for the Crawfordsville Fire Department. First, I would like to thank Jill Rogers for organizing this for me and the Global Health Initiative for covering my housing costs. The time, effort, and money they have dedicated to me embodies the Wabash spirit and reminds me why I chose to attend this special college.
As an EMT, you meet people where they are. Patients don’t shower, dress up, and drive over to the clinic to receive the treatment we give. Patients sometimes need treatment in the middle of the road, in their car in a parking lot, or on the floor of a bathroom. These are all situations that I encountered this summer which required me to meet patients where they were. I guess you could say that our goal was to meet every patient at the starting point–whatever state of need they are in—and get them to our end point- the hospital in a stable or improved condition. The complicating part—the emergency part of emergency medicine–is that the EMT never knows what the starting point may be, which means it may be harder or take longer to get some patients to the end point and easier and more straightforward for others. Whether the patient is a man bleeding and in pain in the road, a man seizing in his car, or a lady who has fallen in her bathroom, we see each and every patient as deserving of our best work and our best effort to get them to the same endpoint. EMTs meet these people at their worst, their most vulnerable, and do what they can to heal.
The interpersonal connection between an EMT or paramedic and their patient is often just as important as a well-developed knowledge of emergency care. One of the paramedics that I worked with this summer told me that if you talk to a patient long enough and are truly interested in their story, they will tell you exactly what is wrong with them. I found that to be especially true in the context of older patients who can quickly become annoyed with poking and prodding and tests. It is so easy to become obsessed with data and the cold hard numbers and to consequently miss the easiest way, both for the patient and the care provider, to uncover the problem. It was fun to put the EMT skills I had learned into practice, but I think interacting with patients and learning how to connect with them and earn their trust was the most beneficial part of the whole experience for me as an aspiring physician.