Following his EMT Program at the New Britain EMS Academy, learning skills necessary to control life-threatening situations or to stabilize non-life threatening situations, Spencer Schaller ’20 applied and interviewed to serve in the Simsbury volunteer ambulance crew. After an orientation training that involved reviewing bloodborne pathogens (yet again) and gaining a familiarity with their trucks and equipment, Schaller entered a probationary period that can last between three and six months.
“They want to know that you're skilled because it’s a lot different on the truck in the field than in the class and on a dummy. Can you document properly? Can you do your narrative? Can you make patients feel comfortable? Can you give good radio reports to nurses and doctors? These are skills that you don’t necessarily learn in the EMS Academy,” Schaller said. Schaller acknowledged that some of the software is not intuitive and giving radio reports is somewhat intimidating because everyone within the region can hear you.
To date, Schaller has worked ten 12-hours shifts from either six a.m. to six p.m.or the overnight shift. Schaller serves as an A2 in the vehicle and travels with the driver who is also an EMT and another paramedic. He generally arrives 30 minutes earlier than expected to introduce himself to the crew and talk to the off-coming crew to determine what materials need to be restocked.
Simsbury EMT fields approximately 2,100 emergency calls a year which is considered a normal volume for a town that size. Falls are a very common call as well as individuals who have been sick for a while who have finally decided that they need to be hospitalized.
On his first day in November, he learned where all the equipment is stored on the truck, built a rapport with the medic and saw how he could help. On the first day, he said that no one expects you to be leading a call. "Once I become more seasoned, I can provide more care to the patients and have more weight on my shoulders,” he said.
Fortunately, he hasn't experienced any trauma calls, but he recognizes that the best way to maintain calm in tense situations is to follow the advice of a long-time paramedic who told him to say to himself, ‘it's not my emergency.’ “They [the patients] can freak out. Their family can freak out, but you can’t. You’re expected to be calm and make them feel calm and safe. I always have that running in my mind. If you take your time, you can process better what you are doing,” he said.
Since many first responders witness terrible accidents, understandably, many are impacted by the things they have seen on the job. Another paramedic described the emotional load that many individuals carry as an ‘invisible backpack.’ “Each call you go on you’re throwing in a stone. Some people’s bags are bigger than others. Eventually, your bag fills up, and you have to talk to someone,” he said. He considers the team as one family that supports one another and ensures that everyone is getting the help that they need. “In the end, you can’t take it home, but to lose a patient is very hard,” he said
Following a call, the crew debriefs, checks that the team is doing well mentally, and confirms that everyone is clear on the situation. Schaller appreciates the camaraderie and the level of support that the team members give one another. “I love every second of it. Even if I’m sitting there and calls are canceled en route, everyone there is so knowledgeable, happy to answer your questions and practice skills with you,” he said.
From his classes and training, the experience has cemented Schaller's conviction to pursue work in medicine in a hospital or as a physician or even work with WHO and battling epidemics. “I feel a lot of the basic skills have given me the confidence to continue on this path," he said.