Do you remember your first career aspiration? That’s right, I’m talking about the bigger than life dream you had as a kid. Are you living it now as an adult?
If your answer is “yes,” then stop reading now. Go back to being an astronaut… or a supermodel… or whatever childhood dream you’re now living.
But if you’re not living the dream, then welcome to the party. Most of us in EMS aren’t enamored with the monotony of our careers. It’s no big secret. The drudgery of oxygen, monitor, IV, transport to the Nth degree will wear on anyone. Does that equal unhappiness? No, it just means many will accept monotony as an excuse to be average, i.e. unawesomeness.
This week I witnessed… no, that’s not the right word. I endured the handling of a healthcare team that had succumbed to mediocrity. Long story short; I had an outpatient surgery, and it was unpleasant. Had my wonderful wife not been there to support me, the day would have been unbearable. The whole experience got me thinking of a passage from Steve Whitehead’s e-book, “The Non-Conformist’s Guide to EMS Success.”
Yes, our work matters. The work of the EMT is vital and worth doing.
If it doesn’t matter and we choose to do it anyway, we are fools. Since it does matter, it’s worth committing ourselves fully.
When we do, we are free to support our workplace as a place for meaningful work. Sure, that all sounds good right? It is. But it comes with a bitter pill. A pill that not too many of us are willing to swallow.
To recreate our workplace as a place of meaningful work, we need to take accountability for creating it. Not the future, the now. We need to accept that we have created our working environment, and we continue to create it each day.
So don’t mistake this post as a pity party. No, I want to tell you about the positive aspects of my care. Let’s talk about the two things performed by healthcare workers that made me smile; warm blankets and a joke.
During the pre-operative procedures and interviews, I quickly became cold in my paper-thin patient gown and grabbed the standard white blanket provided on my bed. Not much better. My wife began piling our winter coats on me, and when my nurse saw this she went to grab several blankets from the blanket warmer. Not from the cabinet in my room where more cold blankets were stored… the blanket warmer. That doesn’t sound like much of a feat, but if you’ve spent much time in hospitals, then you know the logistics of blanket warming technology. Though we’ve put astronauts on the moon, we can’t seem to install more than one blanket warmer per floor of a hospital. Hospital-based healthcare workers will also agree that the patients requesting warm blankets are always placed in the rooms furthest from the sole blanket warmer. Go figure. My nurse could have easily grabbed some cold blankets from the nearby cabinet, but she didn’t. So for the trip to and from the far-flung blanket warmer, I thank you, Nurse Cammie. You made me smile.
After several other interactions with employees who appeared to be on autopilot, my warm blankets and I were wheeled to the operating room. A young surgery tech helped clear the hallway of wandering family members and unattended beds. She smiled at us and joked about racing me to the operating room as she jogged ahead to clear obstacles. At O’dark-thirty in the morning, no one would have blamed her for being just as uninspired as her co-workers. But she wasn’t. She chose to be awesome. Thank you, happy surgery tech chick, you made me smile.
My experience as a patient reminded me how easily healthcare workers can fall into ruts and stop caring about the little things. Perhaps they feel like the little things don’t matter because they aren’t part of that bigger than life childhood dream. But the little things do matter, and they weren’t given to me by the surgeon, the anesthesiologist, or the hospital administrator whose shiny car we passed in the parking lot. They were given by people whose healthcare roles are very similar to ours in EMS; brief parts in the grand scheme of a patient’s care that can be easily forgotten or greatly appreciated.