Archive for the ‘Reflections’ Category

The Night Before

It’s the night before I become a nursing student(!!!). Just let that sink in a bit.

Tomorrow my whole life changes. But more about that later.

I’ve been in Baltimore for 3 weeks now. It’s been good to me so far (that is, I have not been shot yet). I’ve had a chance to look around and explore a little, and I think this city has a lot to offer (you know, other than getting shot). It’s a big adjustment for me, though; Baltimore is by far the biggest city I’ve ever lived in. I grew up in a very small town in bayou country, Louisiana, then went to college in a quaint little town in Minnesota, then spent the last two years living in rural South Dakota. This is a whole new world with all new adventures! But that’s part of the excitement!

I’ll tell you one of my observations of the city so far: the parking situation. I am fortunate enough to live with wonderful roommates in a nice apartment just a few blocks away from campus, so I plan on walking to and from school (and I’m lucky enough to be doing my clinicals at Johns Hopkins Hospital this semester so I can walk there too!). But when I’ve had to venture out into the world and go places, parking gives me terrible anxiety. It’s hard to find places to park legally and for free. I always end up driving around and around the blocks near my destination looking for a spot, and then when I find one, it takes me a full fifteen minutes of reading the sign over and over again, checking and double checking that it is, indeed, legal to park there at that exact moment in time.

You see, the parking situation goes like this. Most parking spaces have meters or pay-to-park boxes where you need to print out a permit and put it on your dashboard. If you’re looking to park for free (and who isn’t?), then you have to play this really fun game where you pull into a spot and interpret the riddle that is the sign to see if you can stay there. For example, I met some friends at a restaurant the other night. My parking space was only legal if it was not 9am-1pm on a Tuesday or Thursday, the car weighs less than 2.5 tons, it was not a school day, the sky was not cloudy, it was not macaroni day at the preschool, and 10 virgins had been sacrificed to the volcano. Okay, I exaggerate…somewhat. Anyone who has lived in a big city knows that the parking is always interesting, if it exists at all.

Okay now back to the fact that tomorrow is the first day of my journey to become a nurse (well, not really the first day…one could argue that I’ve been on this path for the better part of my life, but I digress). Cue the dramatics. Although I’m actually quite calm. I’m not really that nervous. I’m just ready to get started! Wish me luck!

Alrighty. Onward.



Eating Elephants, Round 2

There is an elephant on my plate…again.

I’m not going to pretend like I mind. I’m very busy, yes, but I usually work better under this kind of pressure. It’s stressful, but it’s motivating!

Between working two jobs, taking classes, book club, and studying for the GRE (again), I haven’t got much extra time on my hands, which is exactly why I’m in the mood to write. ;)

You read that right: I am back in school and studying for the GRE—very similar to the situation I was in two years ago. Except last time, I was preparing to apply to a ph.d program in clinical psychology while this time I am preparing to apply to master’s entry programs in nursing. I am currently taking prerequisite classes for nursing school at the local state college, then I plan to go on to earn an MSN specializing in nurse midwifery.

I can’t emphasize enough that I have NOT lost interest in EMS or psychology or any of the other things I’m interested in—I’m simply going down a path that is true to my heart and I will continue to pursue this and other interests for the rest of my life. And if you think about it, pursuing nurse-midwifery is not really a divergence from those other interests—all revolve around my passion and commitment to patient advocacy and to providing better healthcare to people in this country.

I’ll leave you with that for today. Thanks for reading (even though my posting is scarce these days)!

And when you’re stressed out and faced with a seemingly impossible task such as eating an elephant, just remember, the only way to do it is one bite at a time.

Clocks and Maps

Today (well yesterday, technically) made one year that I have been working at my current place of employment.

When I realized the date and stated this to my co-worker, she said, “Yay! Let’s all go to the party they’re not going to throw for you!” Rude people burstin’ my bubble.

It certainly hasn’t been the worst year of my life, but it’s definitely not where I expected I’d be right now. After college, my plan was to go to EMT school and work full-time as an EMT while getting myself ready for graduate school. As you know, that didn’t work out, and I found myself back in the midwest working in a psychiatric hospital and part-time as an EMT.

If things had gone my way, right now I’d have submitted my applications to various Ph.D programs in clinical psychology and would be nervously awaiting their decisions in the coming months. I’d go off to grad school this fall, spend the next 5-6 years becoming a clinical psychologist and focusing my research and practice on disaster mental health, and end up traveling the world responding to disasters or a professor at a well-respected institution (I can dream.), or something like that.

Instead, this job has turned me on to the field of nursing. I love what I do and I’m damn good at it, and with this experience and the right education, I could be a damn good nurse. I have not turned my back on EMS, nor have I forgotten that it was my first passion. I’ve just discovered a different path to achieve many of the same goals and involving all of my interests—EMS, patient care, evidence-based medicine, public health, clinical psychology, disaster mental health, patient advocacy, and education—and melding them into a career somehow. 

I hope to become a paramedic someday in the future, but a year working part-time as an EMT in a small, boring town leaves me ill-prepared for that right now. However, a year working as a CNA at the facility I work at has done well to prepare me for a career in nursing. Therefore, over the next year, I will be working hard to earn the required prerequisites for nursing school and will be sending in my applications by this time next year. I have an idea of what the course of my life will look like after that ,but I won’t reveal that to you yet. Just know that I’m pressing forward down the path that is right for me and the one that will allow me to help the most people in the best way.

It’s amazing how much differently the past looks with a year of hindsight behind you. You realize that what seemed like the end of the world at the time was actually the best thing that’s ever happened to you. Regret fades and transforms into relief, and despair into hope. Where there was once uncertainty, there is now a plan, better and more fitting than the one before. And someone who was once a reject is now on top of her game, ready to set the world on fire.

“The only point of clocks and maps, the only point of looking back is to see how far we’ve come.” –Dawes, How Far We’ve Come 

This is how far I’ve come in a year. I look forward to looking back again a year from now to see how far I’ll have come (wow, what a weird sentence, but yeah…).

Que Sera Sera

It has occurred to me that I might have to change the title of this blog from Liberal Artist in the Ambulance to Liberal Artist in the Psychiatric Hospital or Liberal Artist in the Middle of Nowhere

You ever hear that quote by Joseph Campbell, “We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the life that is waiting for us.”? Well, I know from personal experience…it’s true.

As the regular readers of my blog will know, my life was thrown into turmoil a while back when my dream of becoming an EMT was crushed. It was devastating because, well, it was my dream! I was shocked, confused, and also in a very difficult financial situation as well.

But good news! Life has improved since then and things are still looking up! I have moved to the wonderful, wonderful Midwest (a.k.a. “The Middle of Nowhere”), got a job, bought a car, and am leasing an apartment. Admittedly, any one of those things by itself would have been a huge step up from my previous situation (I mean, when you hit bottom the only way to go is up, right?), but I still feel extremely blessed to have all of those things after only being here for 3.5 weeks.

See the thing is, I didn’t just get any job. I got a job in a mental health setting. That is a big deal considering that is my probable future career field. Even though going home for EMT school and eventually to work full-time as an EMT was my plan, obviously that wasn’t where I was meant to be. I had myself convinced that I would somehow be able to do that and still prepare for graduate school at the same time. It is only now, in retrospect, that I realize how silly that was. There are so many reasons why I am not ready for graduate school yet and so many things that I need to work on between now and then—I’m trying to figure out how I was stupid enough to believe that I could do all that in that setting.

I’m not ready to thank the company for not hiring me yet, either. I feel like it will probably end up being the best thing that ever happened to me, even though it was the most devastating. However, it still hurt. I had the want-to and the know-how to be an EMT, it was something that I was passionate about doing, and there was nothing about me (that I could identify) that would lead them to believe that I wouldn’t be a good employee with them. In the days that followed the news, I kept trying to figure out what was wrong with me that they didn’t want to hire me. And I know everyone is wondering the same thing. But I’ve finally come to realize that there is nothing wrong with me. These kinds of things are as much about fit-ness as they are about qualifications, and I guess I was just not a good fit for that company.

Whatever the reason, and whatever my life would have been had things gone according to my plan, it’s time to let go. I’m making a good life for myself here. I have enough money to pay my bills and buy food, and that’s all I can really ask for. Yes, I miss Louisiana a bit—mostly the food, some of the people—and no, I don’t plan to stay in the Midwest forever. But by moving here, I have been able to get closer to where I want to be sooner than if I had stayed home. Now, because I’m getting experience in a mental health setting, graduate school seems so much more attainable than before. And my EMS career isn’t over yet! I’m going to be interviewing with the EMS agency here and hopefully I’ll be able to attain my true dream of combining my interests in EMS and clinical psychology into a career.

So for now, I will keep the name of this blog as Liberal Artist in the Ambulance because I still do hope to be just that very soon. Que sera sera and we’ll go from there…

Work Hard. Be Brave.

Alright, calm down. I know that I said I was going to take a hiatus. But sitting here on New Year’s Eve with nothing to do, I realized that I didn’t want my last blog post of 2011 to be such a downer.

I’ve been pretty down lately for obvious reasons and would be lying if I said I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to 2011 and hello to 2012. But in reality, it has only been these final weeks of 2011 that have been truly bad. I wanted to take a few minutes to remind myself some of the GOOD things that have happened in 2011. They include:

  • Driving a car in the snow for the first time (small victories)
  • Completing my senior thesis on perceptual categorization in pigeons, presenting it at the Minnesota Undergraduate Psychology Conference, and receiving a grade of “Distinction” on it
  • Attending my college’s annual Spring Concert where I discovered my new favorite band (Dawes—check them out. Seriously.)
  • Graduating from one of the best colleges in the country, but not before enjoying more good times with many wonderful friends
  • Last, but certainly not least, I became an EMT—a real, live, Nationally Registered EMT (no big deal)

As the new year rolls in, I can’t help but notice that this is the first time…ever, I think…that I have absolutely NO IDEA where I will be sitting a year from now. Things aren’t going so well for me right now and I’m trying to turn that around by starting a new life in a new state in 2012. It’s exciting because I really do believe that better opportunities await me there and I’m optimistic that in no time, thanks to the help of generous friends, I will be back on my feet (and facing the right direction this time). But it is also really scary. I am taking a huge risk moving to another state with no money and no job. I’m hopeful that things will work out for the best, but we’ll just have to wait and see won’t we?

Therefore, my New Year’s resolutions are simple and vague: WORK HARD and BE BRAVE. If I stick to that, then hopefully by this time next year (or hey, maybe even sooner) I’ll be a lot closer to where I want to be in life.

Okay, hiatus over. Seriously, I love writing and forgot how therapeutic  it can be. No need to give up on it because one thing didn’t go my way.

See y’all in 2012!

Happy Anniversary!

One year ago today, I published my first blog posts. I introduced myself to the blogosphere and attempted to justify writing an EMS blog long before I ever truly entered the world of EMS. In my very first post, I discussed the role that my liberal arts education played in my decision to become an EMT. It’s interesting to see that a year and an EMT certification later, my feelings are the same.

I puzzle people. I’m strange. People can’t seem to figure me out. One guy in my class described me as an enigma. (I’m pretty sure that’s his favorite nickname for me after “cat lady.”) People just don’t have a clue why a person who graduated from a top 10 college goes to EMT school afterwards.

This used to anger me. I hated that people insisted on furthering the stereotype that there is no place for educated people in EMS. It also annoyed me that no one really understands that the nature of my education allows me to do whatever I want after I graduate. People think that you graduate with a bachelor’s degree in psychology (which you “can’t do anything with” as everyone tells me—ugh), then you go to graduate school and become a psychologist. So why do I want to go the route of becoming a lowly EMT?

They tease me for being a “professional student.” You know, one of those people who can’t stop going back to school and obtains degree after degree for the rest of her life? At first I brushed it off as just a joke—it is true that I have been a student for most of my life. But then I realized the truth there is behind it. Here is a quote from my school’s website that I integrated into my first blog post:

The most important thing our students learn is how to learn for a lifetime. Critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, effective communication: these are the tools that transform a collection of facts and figures into a way of understanding the world.” [emphasis added]

How to learn for a lifetime. It may take ridiculously little training to become an EMT in this country, but the learning doesn’t stop once training is over. This is a field where the majority of the learning takes place in the field. Plus the standards are always changing, so constant re-education is required. This is the kind of job that you will not succeed in if you are not a professional student.

Therefore, I contend that being a professional student can make one a better EMT. Boom. I didn’t go to EMT school because I’m trying to put off having a “real” job or because it’s just another certification I can add to the end of my name. I did it because I wanted to, plain and simple. And, in my opinion, it is not against all sense and reason to do so. I think it’s a perfectly reasonable career choice, one that could prove to be a good launchpad to what I’m going to do with the rest of my life.

Does that make me any less strange? Probably not—I think a lot of my strangeness comes from my personality, not my career choices. But I hope that might give you a little insight into my strange mind and maybe mollify some of my critics.

If not, who cares? I’m doing what makes me happy, end of story.

And happy anniversary, blogosphere! It’s been great. Here’s to many more years together!

Eating Elephants

Just as I’m sitting here thinking that I’ve bitten off more than I can chew, I give myself a good slap and remember that I’ve handled way worse than this in college! I’m well-practiced at eating elephants, and this elephant is nothing compared to some of the ones I’ve eaten in the past (cue traumatic memories of the week my comps was due…*shudder*)!

Yes, I’m still behind on my GRE studying, and being that the test is only 25 days away now, this is unacceptable. So I’ve taken my long weekend (oh hey, you mean holidays exist at this school?) to do a lot of catching up. I’ve been watching movies (Titanic, Enough, Titanic again) in the background while I mindlessly make the hundreds of vocabulary flashcards that I’m behind on, and later I’ll spend a few hours with the tv off and actually study them. And look, I’ve even found some time to blog a little!

I’m eating this elephant one bite at a time. Making a dent in my flashcards is one bite. Studying them later will be another bite. Getting back to my actual test prep tomorrow will be another bite. This is good progress, indeed. But it does nothing to mitigate this panicky feeling that I have….but that’s okay! It’s this panicky feeling that I’m almost out of time that is what’s going to get my ass in gear and into crack-down mode. 25 days. 25 days. Less than a month! And only an additional 15 days until the psychology test after that! Oh my oh my…..

Time to get back to work, I think.

When One Door Closes…

So. The day I had been working towards for 4 years has come and gone. After one big, jumbled-together, sleepless, LONG day, I am finally back on the bayou.

I almost teared up a bit when we crossed the Minnesota state border into Iowa. It was like it was the first time that I had the chance to think, “Wow. I’m really leaving.” Pre-senior week, there is nothing but excitement for senior week—you push back whatever negative emotions you may be feeling about post-graduation because you’re just trying to enjoy some time with your friends and family. Then senior week is so dang busy that there is no time to feel anything except stress because there is still SO MUCH PACKING to do in between the fun and festivities and receptions and rehearsals. Then, the big day is upon you before you know it, and you’re kicked off campus by 5 pm that very same day. (Well, in my case 1 pm—my father was very anxious to get back home so he wanted to start the 20-hr drive as soon as possible.) Then, just like that, here. Boom. Done.

I think the reality that my college life is over is still sinking in. I don’t feel a whole lot of anything right now—just blah. But I’m prepared to deal with whatever emotions may come later and hopefully the excitement of my new life as an (soon-to-be) EMT student will provide sufficient distraction.

Speaking of being a soon-to-be EMT student (this is supposed to be an EMS blog after all!), I will be attending the required information session for EMT school tomorrow afternoon! I’m just a little bit excited. Just a little bit. And by “a little bit,” I mean a lot. My friend, whom I will call MG, got me the most appropriate graduation gift you could give a future EMT: a stethoscope and a sphygmomanometer. I’ve been running around, forcing my friends and family to let me take their blood pressures and listening to the heartbeats of the cat and dog. They think I’m bad now…wait until I start making them play dead so I can practice head-to-toe rapid trauma assessment on them! ;)

The happiest, most productive, most accomplished and life-changing 4 years of my life are over. As they say, “All good things must come to an end.” But they also say that “When one door closes, another door opens.” I may be in limbo right now (living with my parents and jobless—but hopefully not for long; I’ve got an interview on Thursday!), but it’s only a couple of months before the next great part of my life begins to unfold.

63 days. I’m so ready.

Until then, I will continue looking for a job, reading lots of books, and studying for the GRE, as planned. And, because I’m just full of cliches today, I will close with yet another quote….just because I happen to like it and it fills me with optimism—don’t judge me.

“Today is the first day of the rest of your life.” Today is the first day of the rest of my life.

Dead Babies and Other Horrible Things

Dead babies have been on my mind a lot lately…and how I’d really love to go the rest of my life without ever seeing one. Watch this video before I move on (WARNING: It’s graphic…):

For me, that was pretty real. Not that there’s nothing that affects me about dead teenagers and grown-ups, but somehow I think I can handle that a lot easier than I can other stuff. No matter how graphic that video could have gotten, if it wasn’t for the parts from around 2:00-2:12, I think I could have watched it, no problem. But that unresponsive baby with the dead eyes haunts me. And so does the little girl saying “Why won’t Mommy and Daddy wake up?”

I try to watch these kinds of things from the perspective of the emergency workers–I watch what they do and listen to the things they say as a form of observational learning, much like I do on my ride-alongs with real medics. I try to imagine what I would do if I came upon a similar scene. But this one was tough.

I can’t help but think about when I’m the one in uniform showing up to difficult calls like this.What am I supposed to say to calm the little girl screaming for her parents who are likely dead? Or worse, what am I going to say to the parents of the dead baby I get called to when they are hysterical and begging you to save their child? Would I be able to do that without breaking down into tears right there in front of them? Somehow it seems doubtful if just watching a video almost makes me want to cry.

But besides dead babies, which I think are hard for everyone, there is something else I wonder about. The fact that I come from and am planning on working in a small town down da bayou will add an added layer of emotion to my job. You see, we cajun folk are just so darn friendly and everybody knows everybody over there! Well, I may not know everybody, but everybody sure as hell seems to know me! They know one or both of my parents or some other member of my family, so they know me as well. When I go home for breaks, I can’t walk into Walmart without at least three people coming talk to me. They’ll ask me how I’m doing and how school is going and stuff like that. I’ll smile and answer their questions politely. Then they’ll say “Say hi to your momma/daddy for me!” I smile and say “Will do!” Often I go home and say, “Mom/Dad someone I saw at Walmart today told me to tell you hi, but don’t ask me who it was!” No joke. That honestly happens all the time.

This element of everyone being familiar with everyone makes for some interesting trips to Walmart, but I’m guessing it will also make for an interesting–and highly emotional–job as a medic. Everything hits close to home where I’m from. Just yesterday, I heard about an old friend, a man I used to know from church, that his wife was killed in a car accident. My heart goes out to him and his two daughters who survived the crash. But I also couldn’t help but think, What if I was the one who had to take this call?

I’ve heard that the way to deal with emergencies is to remind yourself that it’s not your emergency, it’s that of whoever called you. Just take a deep breath and remember that you’re the professional who’s there to help. I can imagine how this little cognitive trick would help sometimes. But what happens when you work and live in a small town and every emergency seems like your own? Even though it is someone else and not you, it’s still likely gonna be someone you know (or someone who knows you). Detachment would be almost impossible. Calls like this may be few and far between for those with small families working in big cities, but this could be almost an everyday thing for me.

Am I ready for this? Am I ready to be caring for people that I know and/or who know me? It seems like caring for complete strangers would be a whole lot easier. How long am I gonna last doing that? I’m open to advice from anyone who works in the small town that they live or from anyone who has ever cared for a friend or a friend of a friend.

Just a final note: I don’t think about depressing stuff like this all the time. Mostly I’m excited about my career and looking forward to the challenges that it will bring. But, as I learned in my developmental psychology class yesterday (Hey look at me! I’m studying for finals and blogging at the same time!), it’s normal (in fact, healthy) to have fears and doubts. According to Erickson, I’m in the “moratorium” phase of my identity crisis, which is where college students should be. It’s the natural path towards identity achievement. And if I may quote my brilliant professor “The only way out is through the rocky valley of pain and indecision.”

So, if it ever seems from this blog that I focus only on the fears and doubts, just know that that’s not actually true. There are fears and doubts, plenty of them, but there is also passion, determination, enthusiasm, and hope. I’ll just have to figure out some way to deal with the dead babies and hysterical family members so that I can enjoy the other aspects of my job….I just don’t know how quite yet.


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