“What is medic school like?” Fresh off the Request Line!

I got my first special request! Yay! Excited to mentor young padawans, I am.

Clay posted a comment on New Kids on the Blocks Part II asking about the hardships of paramedic school. I’m more than happy to answer this question as many other visitors to the blog probably wonder what it takes to become one of the few, and the proud, medics that take the streets everyday in our rolling arsenals against death.

In all honesty, hardship is right, especially if you are working full time. Without knowing the length or format of other schools (some as short as 8 months, others as long as 18-24) I can say that in total time spent I more time in study preparing for tests or doing homework than anything. The time commitment is extreme, because you are expected to cover so much material and so in depth (depending on instructor) that early preparation is essential to success. I seriously spent most of my awake hours studying or going over practice tests. You should get plenty of sleep and eat healthy as this can improve your overall health and give you more energy. You’re going to need it.

Which leads me to my next topic. You should pick a study book and do the questions over and over again. I bought one book and used the CD and answered the book questions at least three or four times a week. I did the study book I bought at least two dozen times. My notebooks were filled with numbers and letters. The online ones are nice, but some of them don’t give much feedback. My book provided no explanation, so I would look at the topic and chase down the answer in the book with a highlighter so when I went back to review the chapter I knew what I had missed before. MAKE SURE you understand the question and why you missed it. Mistakes are not corrected with repetition but with understanding the WHY and HOW. All of this studying and reading and testing and reviewing and studying and testing and more reviewing may seem tedious but think about the end goal. You want a paramedic card and a patch and especially the responsibility to go with it, you are going to have to work for it.

The next part is about hospital and ambulance clinicals. In the hospital you are on their turf, and you live and work under their rules. This doesn’t mean, however, that you should cower in fear in the corner. I earned A LOT of respect by offering to do things that weren’t really for me to do (like cleaning rooms, etc). This got the nurses and docs to think of me first when something big needed done that I could do (I was put into a lead trauma apron and gown and sent in to start IV’s during a serious trauma that was brought in) and was often first pick for tough IV’s, 12 leads, and doing lab draws. I got what I needed done in the ED twice as fast.

On the road I was surrounded by highly skilled and intelligent people which was part of my development. I took many of their suggestions to heart and even now I emulate them in my thought processes and action plans. You should listen to your preceptors, they are there to make sure you can perform as expected for your individual program but also to offer advice and answer questions you may have about the application of what you learned in class.

A word about ethics. Don’t cheat or copy cases that you weren’t on by spying on a chart. Don’t cut corners on your PCR’s. I definitely won’t sign work done on another shift with another medic. Call me a stickler, but I can’t attest to something I did not witness. Doing these things only cheats yourself and makes you less prepared for actual application.

So, be ready to study a lot and be tested a lot. You should be proactive in clinicals and be confident in yourself, and what you know, and if you don’t know or don’t feel ready you should tell someone and have them help you. You should use the resources around you. Your preceptor is not only an evaluator but also an outlet for information, they can help you when you have questions. I had flight nurses and MICU paramedics who were the best of the best in the region get me through medic school, and to the nurses, medics, and staff of CareFlight and firefighter/paramedics of the Xenia Township Fire Department I am grateful.

You can use the internet as a resource, and a powerful resource at that. When you start classes, you should really look at EMS Boot Camp by Jim Hoffman (aka EMS Professional) and MedicCast Extra by Jamie Davis, the Podmedic. Jim also has a podcast at EMS Office Hours and Jamie has his podcast at the MedicCast, you can find them on Zune, iTunes, etc. I highly recommend them.

Thanks for stopping by, and until next time FTM-PTB-EGH

This article was written by rstine

  • Ty

    Russ,Just found your blog a few days ago, but I've really enjoyed it so far. As a new paramedic student starting school next week here in the great white north (Ottawa, Ontario) I wanted to thank you for the words of advice and wisdom. I know you're blog is going to help me down the road.Ty

  • HybridMedic

    Thanks for the kind words Ty.

  • Jim Hoffman

    Great tips Russell. I encourage students to always look up the answer to a question when they get it wrong. Having the practice test give you the reason why just makes it easy to forget "why" later. So, if you are using practice exams that give reason why feedback, that's great. Just make sure you go a little further and read up on it in your textbook. Chances are you won't have to again.

  • Sarah Jensen

    Well articulated! I enjoy what I have read so far. Keep up the good work!