Emily Schalla submitted 2020-10-31

The ACLS Scholarship for Healthcare Providers interests me because I have seen the benefits of the training first hand through my fire department and previous private ambulance service experience. I am a three-year member of the Town of Linn Fire and EMS Department located near Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Since joining the department, I have accomplished many licensures/certifications including: BLS CPR for Healthcare Providers, EMT-Basic, and most recently Advanced EMT (fall 2019). I have also gone on to ACLS even though I am not allowed to give most medications through my licensure level. Now, I am working towards a degree in Nursing with a focus on emergency or critical care and potentially working as a flight nurse on a helicopter in the future.

For two years I worked for a private ambulance service. I was partnered with a Critical Care Paramedic partner. Having the most broad-spectrum scope of practice in our area, my partner and I did all kinds of calls. We took patients in critical condition on ventilators with multiple IV medications running being transferred to an Intensive Care Unit. We also took basic calls like taking Grandma back to the nursing home after a fall and a little scare that resulted in a trip to the Emergency Room. Throughout the calls and learning as much as I could medically from my partner, the most important lesson was to treat your patient as a human being. It sounds silly, of course they are human. I have seen many providers, and have even caught myself, forgetting the ventilator is helping someone breathe so hopefully, one day, they are well and able to go home to their family. It’s not “just” another machine to learn and lots of tubes to deal with throughout the call. Grandma may have memory challenges and can’t tell you what year it is, but she will remember if she was treated well and felt safe, and may share that experience with others.

I joined my local fire department because I’ve always been drawn to the trucks and excitement. I was new to the area and thought it would be a good way to meet people and my new community. I have successfully done all of those, but joining the fire department was so much more impactful than I would have imagined. My department is classified as a “paid-on-call” department. This means there are not staffed crew members at the station all day, most of our time at the firehouse is volunteer, and we only get compensated for the time on an emergency call. The responding area is approximately 33 square miles and includes the majority of an eight square mile lake that brings thousands of tourists to the area every year. It is hard to prepare for what a day may bring, especially if you are new to the field. I have been the student on the ambulance, the new EMT-Basic, and now I’m the leading provider as the Advanced EMT that takes students with me.

There are five pieces of advice that students and I go over before I take them on calls. First is to know your training. You are the best person to know what you have been trained to handle, and be confident in that training. You have studied a textbook and completed hands-on skills stations to gain the muscle memory needed to work in healthcare and emergency services. Being in the field and treating patients is what you’ve worked hard for and your hands are going to get dirty. Second, personal protective equipment is not a joke. Wear it. Gloves, masks, eye protection, gowns, bunker gear, it doesn’t matter. You may look ridiculous, and we all know that it gets hot in the back of an ambulance with everything on but you are wearing that gear to keep you safe from your patient and the patient safe from you. Third, is to remember it is not your emergency. This is one that takes time to internalize, especially with adrenaline flowing through your body. If your brain isn’t working, stop and take a breath, you have a second to think- even when you think you don’t. When people get nervous or overwhelmed sometimes, they stop breathing without realizing it. Fourth, the teacher in the situation will push you out of your comfort zone. It may be a really uncomfortable place to be but it is the best place for you because that is when you learn. Having honest communication with your teacher will make this a bit easier. If a teacher knows where you are in your training and confidence level, it will be a smoother process to learn more and continue to develop in your training. The final advise I give to students is this job is hard; healthcare and emergency services are hard separately and now we combine them. You will see things you can’t unsee, hear things you never wanted to, potentially be apart of a family’s worst memory. We are trained to know what to do and stay calm in the moment but that doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to feel everything after. It is okay to not be okay. The difference between people who will be successful and the people who won’t is a simple thing- tell someone if you are not okay. There are so many resources and ways to get you better, its just a matter of starting the process and finding the resource that works for you.

At the end of the day, you chose this profession because it was interesting and exciting to you. The job is hard, but the job is also incredibly rewarding, don’t forget to feel the joy.