Words of Wisdom

Words of Wisdom

Feb 3, 2015

Throughout the years, I have received a lot of advice from a lot of people.  I thought now would be a good time to share some of those quotes with you so that you might have the chance to learn from them as well.

  1. “If they’re bloody, clean them up.” – John Glowacki

I’ve written about Big John before.  He was one of my first EMT instructors and had a major influence on my career, and how I practice medicine even today.  I was on a crash with him that was relatively minor, but the patient that were caring for was fixated on all of the blood covering her hands.  His point was a simple one.  Cleaning her up a bit not only would give you a better idea of where the blood is coming from, but it would also make the patient feel a little better not having to stare at what belonged on the inside that was now on the outside.

Put the clipboard down.  Don’t worry about your tablet.  Leave the laptop closed.  Don’t touch any of that stuff until your patient is completely taken care of, and trying to clean them up a bit is part of that.

  1. “Rule number 1: People die. Rule number 2: Paramedics can’t do anything to change rule number 1.” – Bob Moore

This is something else that I have talked about in the past.  As you may remember, Bob was one of my paramedic instructors and this was part of the speech that he gave us on the first night of class.  A few years ago, I wrote about accepting mortality and quoted Bob.  He commented on the post and shared the origin of it:

In the fall of 1983, I was a NU medic student and not to brag but I did very well in class. Near the end of class we had an instructor named Joe Duecy run one of our last mega codes before exams. He put me through each and every rhythm known to man and I hung in there with the correct treatment and got the patient back with a pulse. After 30 minutes of playing with me Joe turned off the monitor and told me the patient died. The group and I looked at Joe and I managed to get out the words” What did I do wrong? “. He turned to me and said ” Nothing, but you just learned the most important lesson that you will need to carry you successfully through your time in EMS. There two rules to remember, 1. Sometimes people die and rule 2. Medics can’t change rule 1.”

  1. “August is the time when we get married, get divorced go on vacation and have our mental break down.” – Gary Childs

In another post, I related the tale of the GAC’ism.  Gary Childs was my other paramedic instructor and he handled much of the didactic portion of my program.  Gary had a number of sayings that he repeated often and this was one of them, relating to us what we should expect for our month off in August.  As a personal project, I catalogued a number of his sayings, and handed them out to the class, including him, at the conclusion of our ACLS Summer.

Gary is still teaching today, and is still as brilliant as ever.  You always know one of his students when you meet them because they will remember some pearl of wisdom that he shared with them, and many other classes who were lucky enough to have him as an instructor.

  1. “You need to look at your career as a sine wave and not as a bell curve.” – Jonathan Hall

Jonathan Hall was one of my supervisors when I worked my part time job at Six Flags.  He was a great person to work for, and not only was he one of the most brilliant paramedics I’ve ever worked with but he was also one of the most easy going people that I had ever met.  The quote above was part of a speech that he was giving when he received the Paramedic of the Year award from Hampden County in Massachusetts a few years ago.

It’s one that I have used a number of times in most stress management classes that I have taught.  You need to realize that your career is going to have ups and downs.  It does not just peek and then trickle away.  Jonathan knew that and from what he’s told me himself, he was not always the easy going, fun paramedic that I worked with.  He had his tough times and his bad years.  Whenever I hit those rough patches, I kept Jonathan’s words in mind too.

  1. “You can’t get through a lot of doors unless you are at least perceived as an EMS professional.” – Skip Kirkwood

It goes without saying that I consider myself a student of Skip Kirkwood Chief of Durham County EMS.  He is, in my opinion, one of the most brilliant EMS leaders in the field today.  If Chief Kirkwood writes it, chances are I have read it.  I’ve combed pages of messages from the National EMS Management Association’s listserv looking for those countless pearls of wisdom that he has shared over the years, but this is one that he shared with me when we sat down for breakfast at my first EMS conference in 2010.  We need to be professionals, and we need to police our own.  Only then will we be taken seriously and only then will we get the seat at the table that we deserve.

  1. “A company cannot change morale. Having high or low morale is an internal decision of the employee.” – A former boss who shall remain nameless

I never said that every quote that I learned from was one that I agreed with.  This quote is an example of just that.  The sentiment of some is that there is little that they can do to change how a person feels about themselves or their jobs because they will make up their own mind, and each people will have their own individual needs.  At the same time though, we need to keep in mind that the atmosphere that we create around an employee has a significant amount of influence on their morale.  The policies that we write or the level of involvement that we allow street level personnel to have are two of those.

If your service is one that takes the “my way or the highway” approach from the top, then the chance is that the more that you blindly change, the more upset your people will be.  If it is one that puts decisions like bag selection and layout, truck layout, or other factors that are dealt with solely at the hands of street employees in the hands of street employees you will see a higher level of engagement.

While I could go on for hours about each of these quotes, or list a number of other ones, I feel like this is a good place to start.  What about you?  What words of wisdom would you want to share with the masses?  Here’s your chance, you might have a chance to influence more people than you realize.

  • Mike Smertka

    From my original EMT instructor (I don’t out people on the internet without their permission, but I do remember his name) “If you are wondering whether or not you are doing the right thing, just ask yourself: how is this going to look on the 6pm news?”