A few shifts ago, I made a mistake.
Not a regular every-day kind of mistake, but a critical one. It was something we've been taught from the beginning. Basic, and yet in the heat of the moment of a call wrecked with the unfamiliar and quick decisions, I forgot. And really, there was nothing more than that. I simply forgot.
What I should have done now appears impossibly clear. The benefit of time and conscious reflection has forced those decisions outward for inspection, starkly naked and illuminated in the harsh light of all that only now seems heartbreakingly obvious. I'd slap my forehead if the expression wouldn't so drastically underestimate the seriousness of my own omission. This time it was real, and it counted.
I suppose on a large enough scale, I can afford myself the opportunity to sit back and comment that these kinds of mistakes are unavoidable. We are put in a tough spot, us paramedics. Forced to deal with undifferentiated patients in unfamiliar environments, pressured by time and the sheer inadequacy of our own knowledge, day after day we blindly toss ourselves from scene to scene and patient to patient. As the census numbers climb, a statistician would probably conclude that the opportunity for error climbs as well. The probability most likely doubles with the inexperienced, and increases exponentially as the patients become more and more complex. ...And even though my rationalizing mind would like to point out such explanations, I still find myself looking back on those few minutes with great regret and dismay. I'm new. It was a tough call. But even still, I should have known better.
It brings to mind the oft-tossed around concept of "good paramedics" and "bad paramedics." There are a few at my service who are categorized as at the extremes of each definition, either through rumor or - in some cases - as the result of a few isolated incidents. We hear stories passed around all the time of so-and-so having made a terrible mistake, or another medic making a great call. Each of these stories, most likely taken well out of context, contribute directly to the reputations of people who - I know - work very hard to keep themselves upright against the constantly changing winds of EMS and the patients we find. With all that we are subjected to, I cant imagine that anyone is able to completely keep his head down, maintain an even keel and avoid the extremes. The big mistakes will happen. A stroke of luck sometimes swings our way. And all the while we do our best to maintain. A good paramedic, I imagine, is able to weather the storms at least as well as he rides the highest waves.
And so, as is the usual procedure after an experience such as this, I return to the work of weathering the storm. Not that I caught any real trouble for my mistakes, but there is most certainly a battle that I need to fight with myself. Even experiences like these can prove beneficial if I refuse to let mistakes become the focus, but it doesn't come without a fight. I will most definitely learn from this. I just hope in the meantime that nobody thinks I'm a bad paramedic.