Thread: My "Plan"

  1. #1
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    May 2008

    Default My "Plan"

    I am about to graduate from a four year BA program in Urban Studies. I'm signed up for EMT courses (the rushed course that takes only 4 weeks instead of the usual 16). I'm planning on being an EMT for at least a year before paramedic school. Here is where I am having difficulty in deciding what to do. I have a buddy who was just hired on as a firefighter paramedic in San Diego, and he told me to not even consider medic school until after you've done EMT for a year for a couple of reasons. First, he said that medic school was by far the hardest thing that he's ever done in his life (this comes from a guy who finished a 4 year degree in 2.5 years coming in with 0 units). Second, he said that it is possible to become a firefighter without it, that being a paramedic is insanely stressful.
    Continuing onto my plan, while I am an EMT, I hope to finish, or at least start working on an AS in Fire Protection Tech, or equivalent. I used to be conversational at Spanish, and I am looking at improving my speaking ability to also improve my chances. How proficient do they look to consider somebody bilingual? Conversational or fluent? Also for those that have been through what I am going through, being an EMT, how can one do volunteer firefighting at the same time? Is this possible? I'd appreciate any help anyone can give. Thanks a bunch!


  2. #2
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    Jan 2007


    I truely think paramedic school is only as hard you make it out to be. You arent learning rocket science. I just tested for national registry and went through it fine. If you go in scared of medic school and listen to what others say you will be intimidated and go through it without any confidence and then yes it will be hard. If you do all of your reading and practice all of your skills each lab session you will be fine. As our instructor told us, paramedic school only gives you the right to go out and learn from seasoned medics. All that stuff about being a basic for a year is subjective and varies from person to person. All of the internships and rotations will give you that experience, as alot of calls are BLS anyways.

  3. #3
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    Aug 2002
    San Francisco Bay Area


    For the majority of medics and students Iíve talked to becoming a medic is one of the most difficult things theyíve ever done. For some it was a breeze.

    Being able to gain some savvy street time before and after you get to medic school helps in many ways. Some medic programs wonít take you unless you have 6 Ė 12 months experience on the box.

    Mike Ward wrote this in a previous posting:

    As a "fossilmedic" who spent four years riding the ambulance before starting medic school, I appreciate the concept that you need patient care experience to be a more effective medic.

    That image crumbles in my current world, where I see how medical students become physicians. The world does not come to an end if someone starts paramedic school while the ink is still damp on their EMT-Basic card.

    Who is Mike Ward ?

    No matter your schooling the rubber meets the road when you get out on the street and put it into practice.

    Is it possible to get a firefighter position without becoming a medic? Yes.

    But where are the best opportunities for job offerings?

    Answer: If you become a medic for all the right reasons: Fire/Medics

    There are up to 800 candidates chasing each firefighter job. How many are chasing a fire/medic job?

    Answer: 12-20. Which odds do you like better?

    I used to be conversational at Spanish, and I am looking at improving my speaking ability to also improve my chances. How proficient do they look to consider somebody bilingual? Conversational or fluent?

    Speaking a second language will enhance your opportunities. Some departments offer positions for specialized languages. They give special orals and evaluations. Some that already speak Spanish have a tough time.

    Few things are tougher then being a new firefighter and new medic at the same time.

    Not matter what you still have to pass the oral board interview to make the cut.
    Last edited by CaptBob; 05-26-2008 at 12:25 PM.

    "Nothing counts 'til you have the badge . . . Nothing!"

    More Tips on getting hired and promoted by Firehouse Contributing Author Fire ďCaptain BobĒ Articles here:

    Fire "Captain Bob"

  4. #4
    FLA1786 Guest


    Quote Originally Posted by Marshall7 View Post
    I truely think paramedic school is only as hard you make it out to be. You arent learning rocket science. I just tested for national registry and went through it fine. If you go in scared of medic school and listen to what others say you will be intimidated and go through it without any confidence and then yes it will be hard. If you do all of your reading and practice all of your skills each lab session you will be fine. As our instructor told us, paramedic school only gives you the right to go out and learn from seasoned medics. All that stuff about being a basic for a year is subjective and varies from person to person. All of the internships and rotations will give you that experience, as alot of calls are BLS anyways.
    What this guy said.

  5. #5
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    Mar 2008


    Medics is not that "hard", but it is very in depth. There is a lot of info to learn and not that long to learn it in. As long as you keep your nose in the books you should do fine. I was able to work as a part-time firefighter approx 60hrs a week and still go through medics. Use your time in between runs and your off time to study.

  6. #6
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    Nov 2005


    There is a reason that you need to have EMT experience prior to going to Paramedic school. Itís because there is a very high failure rate. Imagine running a shooting call, or a severe shortness of breath when you have NEVER seen one. You are going to direct MY firefighters on a working call? Many of my firefighters are currently certified or former paramedics. They are not going to let patient care suffer while you are fumbling trying to remember what you read in a book.

    As for the person who tells you that you can go to medic school when the ink is still wet on your EMT card, I caution you about taking this advice. His analogy about a doctor having a little experience is a poor one. It doesnít take into account the many YEARS in school and working as an intern.

    Also, anyone who tells you that Medic school is not that difficult is not painting an accurate picture. I am still licensed as a Paramedic and I run the EMS Division of a major California fire department. I have a VERY good feel for what it takes to become a Paramedic.

    More importantly, I have seen dozens of private students who went to paramedic school because someone told them it wasnít that difficult. It breaks my heart to see them fail their internship because they are unprepared.

    Lastly, I DO NOT encourage you to go through an abbreviated EMT course. As an EMT instructor, I can tell you that it is extremely difficult to absorb all of the information presented. Take it during a full semester. Study hard and learn everything there is to learn. Make flash cards and take good notes. You will use them throughout the rest of your career.

    Listen to your friend who works in San Diego.

    Here is some additional information on becoming a paramedic.

    What to Expect From Paramedic School

    Tom Rollins, a graduate of the Daniel Freeman UCLA Paramedic program, wrote the following article. Rollins has agreed to share his experiences with future firefighters, so that they may make an informed decision when deciding to go to paramedic school.

    The decision to go to Paramedic School is one that should not be taken lightly. It will be one of the most challenging periods of your life, and to jump into it without serious thought, preparation and planning could spell disaster to your goal of becoming a firefighter. With that said, it can also be one of the most rewarding periods of your career in the fire service.
    I thought I was ready for paramedic school when I applied a few years back. I was working as a reserve firefighter in a very busy part of Los Angeles County and ran multiple 911 calls every shift. I had already attained an A.S. Degree in Fire Science at a local college, put myself through a fire academy, and was working one 24-hour shift a week as the fourth person on a very busy engine company.
    The final straw was when I spent two nights in line to get a job application for a local fire department. The first night of the line up, a battalion chief walked the entire line with a handful of applications, handing them out to anyone who could show him a paramedic card. The rest of us stood in line another 30 hours. By the time I got to the front of the line, they had run out of applications. Instead of taking tests with 2000 of my closest friends, I told myself that this was going to be the last time I slept on a sidewalk just to see the job go to a paramedic. I was convinced that the next natural progression to becoming a firefighter was attending paramedic school.
    I was overly confident in my abilities as a student because I had sailed through the courses toward my college degree with very little effort. In addition, EMT classes were a breeze for me. I had completed some upper division college classes at the state university level in Biology and Pre-Dentistry (I had aspirations of becoming a dentist before I realized my true calling was in the fire service). I was actively instructing first aid and CPR classes for about eight years prior to applying. Little did I know what lay in store for me. I came to find out that my story was quite typical of my future classmates as well.
    This brings up a good point. Are you going to paramedic school just to be able to check a box on your job application? Or are you going because you have a real desire to learn more about pre-hospital care? I saw many ďbox checkersĒ fail out of the program because the effort it took far exceeded the desire to have a ďPĒ nailed onto the end of their EMT card. If you are hired as a firefighter/paramedic, you will be expected to work as a medic probably for quite some time. If you donít like being a medic to begin with, itís bound to show. You are going to be a very unhappy person who is being scrutinized on every call. Itís hard enough to be a rookie firefighter without the pressure of being a paramedic at the same time. So give some serious thought about jumping into paramedic school if youíre not ready or not really willing.
    To get into a paramedic school you have to meet some basic requirements. Since they vary greatly from school to school and state to state, I wonít go into them here. After these requirements are met, a typical program will require you to take a basic EMT-1 level test. This is the first weeding out process you will encounter. My school had a minimum acceptance level of 85% to go on in the process. After that you are invited to take basic math, reading, writing, and comprehension tests. The third step is an oral interview similar to a fire department oral board, where they ask you a few situational questions and your reasons for wanting to become a paramedic.
    If you are accepted, you go in for an orientation and receive your books. I suggest bringing a large backpack and parking as close to the front door as possible. You will most likely be assigned some study material before the first day of class. The first morning you walk in, expect a quiz. The instructors are testing your ability to follow directions. If you donít score well on your first quiz after having weeks to prepare, the instructors will have a nice one-sided conversation with you in which you do most of the listening. ďHow are you going to keep up throughout the program with only hours of study time instead of weeks, and score above 80% on every quiz?Ē
    On the first day of instruction a doctor spoke to our class and told us that he demanded excellence in us. We were going to learn at a pace that was similar to a first year medical student, and would be expected to perform at that level as well. If anyone didnít think that they could hack it, he invited them to quietly leave at the end of his address, no questions asked, and receive a full refund of their tuition. He said that for the rest of our lives (yes thatís right, the rest of our lives) we would remember paramedic school and what we had to endure to graduate. And I can assure you, truer words were never spoken. You will always remember your time spent in medic school.
    Itís not that the subject matter is all that hard; if given two years to prepare and study, Iím sure that most people could graduate. The problem is that many programs teach the course in six months. Talk about putting a ten-pound chicken in a five-pound bag! So as you can probably see, medic school is all about mastering a vast amount of information in a short amount of time.
    A paramedic program is typically broken up into three phases: didactic (classroom), clinical, and field internship phase. I was tested every day with written quizzes or skill stations. The minimum passing level in my program was 80%. No grading curves, no excuses, no missing classes, and no sleep. OK, Iím joking. I was able to sleep 1 to 3 hours on most nights during the classroom phase.
    The following suggestions will help you prepare for and get the most out of each phase of school. Through planning and preparation you can increase your chances of graduating and getting your paramedic license.
    Before even applying to paramedic school, I suggest you take a semester course of Anatomy & Physiology (lecture and lab) at a local community college. In fact, many programs are starting to include this as a prerequisite. This is a good foundation class and you should work hard in it. Keep in mind that most paramedic schools demand at least 80% to pass; you should be in the upper 90% in every pre-paramedic course you take.
    Next is a basic EKG (Electrocardiogram) course. You donít need to master 12 lead EKGís yet, but it wouldnít hurt. Basic EKG courses are taught in 3 days or less. Know every cardiac rhythm taught to you and know it well. Be able to read a rhythm strip at a glance, not with five minutes of debate with calipers in one hand and flash cards in the other. Your field internship instructors will expect you to know this cold.
    A course in medical terminology, ACLS (Advanced Cardiac Life Support), PALS (Pediatric Advanced Life Support) and any other course that you can think of that will expose you to pre-hospital medical training are all feathers in your cap to help you get into paramedic school and succeed. If your basic math skills arenít what they should be, make sure you do whatever you must to get them there. Pharmacology is all about fractions, decimals, and conversions factors. Study up on your metric system, paying particular attention to volume and mass measurements like milligrams and cubic centimeters.
    Many programs are now offering a paramedic prep course to help students be successful. All these courses count when it comes to admission time. Many people apply to paramedic school, and the competition to get in is growing every day. If you can show that you are better prepared than the next person, chances are you will get the slot and not end up on the ever-growing waiting list. The school wants you to succeed.
    Another good way to prepare for a paramedic program that is often overlooked is to become the best EMT-1 you can be. Let the paramedics that you work with know you want to prepare yourself for paramedic school. I bet they will let you do some patient assessments and run through some patient simulations. I spoke to a paramedic program instructor who said patient assessment skills are severely lacking in his new students. Your field internship will go much more smoothly if you have actually done a few patient assessments and not merely acted like an IV pole on all of your 911 calls. The key is to get in there and get the experience.
    Some fire departments insist that their rookies do ALL the primary assessments prior to the paramedics taking over with the advanced stuff, so you might as well get your hands dirty. When the medics are doing something you donít understand, ask them after the call why they chose that certain treatment. Get to such a level of competence that you can predict what medication is going to be admistered and why. You will be doing the same thing in the near future, so pay attention.
    A huge leg up in preparing for paramedic school is knowing your drugs. There can be over 100 pre-hospital drugs to learn, and most of it is just rote memorization. You donít have to know what the drug does to memorize its dosage, indications, and contraindications. By knowing this prior to the first day of class, you will buy yourself some much needed time to study other subjects (or sleep) while everyone else is struggling with pharmacology. Visit any paramedic school and they will gladly sell you the most current pharmacology handbook.
    You can also use this visit as important face time. Speak with an instructor or sit in on a lecture if you can. Talk with some of the zombie-like students and ask them how you could be better prepared for your class. When it comes time to take the oral interview, you may see a familiar face on the other side of the table.
    Another way to get experience is to volunteer for some of the simulation stations at the school to which you are applying. Often the school is looking for mock patients for the current class. This will give you an opportunity to see how the students are tested and what constitutes a pass or fail in a skills station. You would be surprised how often the program needs volunteers. And again, this is more face time for you to talk with the instructors and get information that other applicants will not have. The competition for that spot in the next class is high; all the above things will hopefully tilt the odds in your favor.
    When you do get that acceptance letter you need to prepare both mentally and financially. In my paramedic class we lost right around 40% of the students by graduation. A lot of these students were trying to work a job while in the program. If at all possible, do not try to work while in paramedic school if you are in a full-time, six to eight month program.
    The didactic period will last from 9 to 16 weeks depending on the school you attend. This is usually a Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. schedule. But that is just class time. Next you have to drive home and eat and then study. You must explain to your family and friends that you are unavailable to do anything for the next 9 to 16 weeks. No nights or weekends off; these will be spent studying. All free time will be spent studying material, working on your assigned project, or preparing for the next test. All of your loved ones will have to excuse you from any other responsibilities during this time. If you fill your plate with anything other than paramedic school, you will most likely fail. Class failure rates in the 30% to 40% range are not uncommon.
    The next step in the program is called the clinical phase, during which you will spend about 180 hours in a busy hospital emergency room. A lot of this time will be spent starting IVís and generally angering your patients in the process. You will also get the chance to practice your patient assessment skills. Do as many assessments as you can. If you donít show any aptitude, the nurses will be more than happy to forget about you and move on to someone who is more interested in becoming a better paramedic intern.
    Some people use the clinical phase to coast and relax before going out to the field internship. Donít become one of these people. When a paramedic comes in with a patient, listen to how he or she gives report. Ask the medics what drugs were administered in the field and why they gave them. Listen to incoming 911 calls if you are in a base station hospital, and ask the nurses for pointers on how to talk on the radio. When a patient needs to be intubated, make sure you volunteer for it. Sometimes the doctors forget that this is in your scope of practice and will do it themselves, but they might let you do it if you speak up. I got to do a number of intubations this way. When a trauma or full arrest patient comes in, make sure youíre not off doing something else less important. Get in there and practice your mega code skills and listen to how others run the code. Take notes as soon as possible after the code and write down everything you didnít understand or were confused about. Go over the code with the nurse and ask questions.
    The field internship is the 3rd and probably most challenging portion of your schooling. You will be riding out with a busy paramedic unit for at least 20 Ė 25 shifts of 24 hours in length. Many paramedic programs have a difficult time placing students because the paramedic preceptors are taking you on as a favor to the school and/or program in general. Keep in mind that your preceptors get no extra pay for accepting you into their lives, and they are doing you a favor! All they get out of the deal is more paperwork, more hassle, and more headaches. In return they get to mentor new paramedics, and this is why they really do it. If you are lucky enough to be able to do your internship at a municipal fire department where you will be working with highly experienced and knowledgeable paramedics, the whole crew is taking you under their collective wing. Treat this opportunity as you would a rookie firefighter position, because you may be one at this department if everything goes well.
    I highly advise trying to find your own internship before you start paramedic school. This way you can get a good internship in a busy fire station and get the most out of your time. Itís better to be graded on ten calls per shift than two. Imagine the upper hand you would have on an oral board if you were a paramedic intern at that department. Need I say more?
    No paramedic internship goes perfectly. Your preceptors donít expect perfection on your first shift except in one area - pharmacology. You may have remembered that I mentioned this at the beginning of the chapter. In your first shift it is common for the preceptors to question you on drug dosages, indications and contraindications to get a feel for how much you have prepared yourself for the field internship. If you canít rattle off all your dosages like a 4th grader recites the alphabet, a whole new can of worms may be opened up, and they will start questioning everything you learned. Not a good way to make that first impression. Know your drugs, know your drugs, know your drugsÖthere, I said it three times.
    Keep a positive attitude at all times when you are in your field internship. When you mess up a call, and you will, learn from your mistakes and move on. Visualize your next call going perfectly. When your preceptors tell you to change or add something to your patient assessments, do so immediately. Never argue with your preceptors or disagree with them in the middle of a call. There will be plenty of time to discuss the run on the way back to the station. During your internship you should never tell your preceptors how you will deal with patients in the future; just keep your comments to yourself and try to learn as much as possible in your 20 shifts.
    The assessment form that your preceptors fill out every shift has a section in it that grades your ability to take instruction and criticism. You will be amazed at what seems like a stupid idea on shift number 5 makes perfect sense on shift 18. A sure way to fail is to argue, disagree, or not follow instructions. The valedictorian of my class failed his field internship because of his inability to take instruction.
    Make sure the rig you ride on is the cleanest, most well-stocked rig in the city. When the next shift comes in and checks out the rig, everything should be fully stocked and in its place. The scope is clean and shining with a new roll of printer paper. The EKG patches are overflowing out of the pocket and the leads are wiped clean. The drug cabinet has no expired drugs lying around in the dark hidden corners. (A nasty little trick preceptors like to do is hide an expired drug in the bottom of the meds box.) The drug box is scrubbed to a shine and all the brass on the clasps is polished.
    When you come back from a call, restock any item that was used on the patient. Never let the scope batteries run low, or an audible alarm will sound off telling everyone on the next call that you are slacking. Empty out a compartment and wipe it clean, throw out any trash, and put everything back in its proper place. Make sure you donít leave any oxygen bottles empty. If you find any medical equipment that you donít understand and canít give a drill on with ten minutes notice, ask your preceptors.
    When you have nothing to do, your nose is in the books. Every firefighter who sees that rig will know a paramedic trainee is on it because it will be shining when it comes down the street, and every paramedic who works on the rig will not have to lift a finger when it comes to restocking it. If you work hard at everything you do in your 20 or so shifts, you are showing everyone how much you want to be there and do well. A good trainee acts a lot like a good firefighter rookie.
    Paul Lepore
    Battalion Chief
    Last edited by BCLepore; 05-27-2008 at 12:21 AM.
    Paul Lepore
    Battalion Chief

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