New Hampshire was bitterly cold. We stayed in dorms on a fire training campus the night before the exam, alone in the lecture halls as we studied our respective examination stations and played cards. The freezing wind battered the windows with blustery sprays of whipped up snow, but we remained warm inside. Three of us, surrounded by the expansive emptiness of rooms waiting to be filled the next morning, huddled over our note cards.
The rooms were full by 7:45, a half hour before the exams were scheduled to begin. Awake with bleary eyes we listened to the nervous chatter of other students waiting to be tested. All wondered how tough the examiners would be, how in-depth the evaluations would get. One student asked me if I could remember the maintenance infusion for Magnesium Sulfate, and I did. He shook his head, frowning. "I really hope they dont ask me about that. I'm never going to remember."
My friends and I, reinforced by practice and tempered by experience, were able to remain calm. It takes something away from the threat of the exam to have been there once, failed, and come back for a second try. Lessons learned through the experience of failure have been those that I remember most clearly during my ride-time internship, and today - with similar lessons learned - I felt prepared. Ready.
Dynamic Cardiology was never easier. Asystole, V-Fib, Asystole, PEA, and out. I cycled through my ACLS, remembering each step, finding time to recall detail that I left out on my first time through the exam. I was ready for infusion rates with fancy dosages, but the need never came. Halfway through an explanation of my last treatment the proctor smiled and asked me to stop. "You're making this too complicated." she said, "Get out of here, have fun being a Paramedic." I left the room with a huge grin on my face. Another proctor standing in the hall laughed at my smile. "Went well, eh?"
My friends had similar experiences, each of them letting out sighs of relief as we met up after the examinations. Fisties and handshakes all around, smiles and congratulations. I bought a bottle of an expensive liquor at the New Hampshire state package store on the trip up, and we all shared a shot in our dorm room before we left. Holding the glasses up high we toasted to the end of exams, the beginning of a new experience.
The liquor went down smooth, warming our stomachs. A delightful contrast - and welcome end - to our cold New Hampshire winter.
With both the practical and written exams passed and behind me, I am now a Nationally Registered Paramedic. I next have to apply for my state license, a process that people before me say could take weeks to months. I continue to work my job as an EMT, hoping for the former. Next hurdle to overcome will be precepting.