Reviewing vs Prepping

As I talked about briefly last week I was recently asked to work a little bit with a paramedic class.  My purpose for being there was two fold.  I was expected to help them review for their National Registry EMT test, and I was also asked to prepare them for the test.  Personally, I feel that these are two completely different things. Way back in 1999, my paramedic instructor told us something very early on.  He said when it came to the paramedic exam and the Massachusetts Office of EMS, “the sky is purple.”  That is to say how we feel about a question and whether we think its answer is right or wrong based on our real world knowledge is a moot point.  We had to be book paramedics, and as far as the book was concerned, the sky was purple. This is not the fault of the authors.  They produce information in a clean form, and one that cannot possibly be updated as fast as the field moves. Revisions take time, and information in industry publications is moving and evolving faster than that in books.  Study the books for the test material (purple sky) but also educate yourself outside of that when the time is right to prepare yourself for the field (blue sky). When we review for a test, we make sure that the information is in our heads.  We talk about things sometimes to the point of exhaustion to make sure that we understand mechanisms, why things work, and concepts behind information that we are expected to know.  Reviewing information makes sure that it is in our head, and that we have retained the right stuff.  Test prep is a completely different animal all together. Test prepping prompts us to then take that information and apply it in answer form to whatever questions are being asked, whether it be multiple choice, narrative answer or true and false for example.  We know the knowledge and information is there and now we need to put it into a readable form that lets someone know that we “get it.” Multiple choice test taking specifically is a skill that one must have if they...

Flashcards!

After doing some work with a paramedic class and looking at the way they studied it made me think back to how I studied when I was taking my first paramedic class back in college.  When I got to college my study habits were poor to say the least.  I was one of those people who always got it or I did not.  I can count the number of tests that I studied for in four years of high school on one hand, because I would just absorb information. I could have gotten better grades if I had applied myself more.  While I was a good test taker, I skipped a lot of homework assignments because I saw them as being busy work.  When it would come time to take a test my score would be solid.  When I would have to do a report I could research it and put something good down on paper.  Homework though, that was my downfall. Once I got to college the game had changed all together.  I went from not having to study to having to learn how to study because it was something that I had never done all that much.   I had trouble confirming for myself that I knew something without some concrete evidence in front of me.  That is why products like Dan Limmer’s Paramedic Review app were so important to me when I got my National Registry Paramedic certification a few years ago.  I could take a test, get immediate feedback on it and then have a score in front of me that gave me an idea of how well I was grasping the information. Once I got to my paramedic class I found myself having to study more and more, especially in the first semester.  While carrying a moderately high class load I had to deal with the Fick principle, acid/base balancing and pharmacology.  Oh yes.  Pharmacology.  My program brought in a doctor for a month who gave us his own four inch d-ring binder full of information.  We did not just have to learn each medication, its purpose and its dose but we had to also know contra indications, mechanism...

The Big Payoff

Nothing seems more satisfying than when hard work pays off.  I set the bar high for July.  I knew I had some work to do, and I had to make sure everything was done, and everything was in order.  That meant getting my PHTLS recertified, taking PALS again, updating my ACLS, and obtaining my National Registry certification.  While that just seems like four classes, it is a lot harder than one might think. The first thing that I realized was PHTLS classes are very hard to come by.  I did, however, luck out and find one class down in Connecticut at the end of the month.  That would be the last piece of the puzzle, but it was scheduled.  PALS was the easiest of the group.  I found a class pretty quickly and got that squared away.  ACLS?  They’re a dime a dozen.  Scheduled, and done.  No problem. Then there was my National Registry paramedic certification.  That’s right: the Quest for the Disco Patch.  This was the one that terrified me the most.  Being twelve years out from any EMS related exam that I had taken, and eleven years since I took any standardized test, I was a touch nervous.  Add to that the fact that I felt the pressure of actually being a provider, and I was then really nervous.  I scheduled the written first, followed by the practical more towards the end of the month. I studied almost every day for three weeks.  I would take practice exams, then study what I got wrong, and then take another one trying to absorb as much of that supressed information as I could.  When the test day came, I was a wreck.  I sat down on a Thursday afternoon and fired up the computer that I was put in front of and cranked through 87 questions.  Yes, that’s right, just 87.  I got there, and it shut me down.  “You have completed this exam, and will get the results in two to three business days.” Headache number one was gone by Friday afternoon.  NREMT was quick to get me my results, and I knew my written was all set.  Then it was on to...

Practically Practical

Twelve years ago I walked out of my state KED station declaring to everyone who would listen that “I hope I never have to do that again.”  I passed my state practicals the first time around which really was the bigger piece that worried me.  The written would come as I was a pretty good test taker but the hands on stuff needed to be done correctly on the first pass.  There was no passing by a skill and coming back to it if I was not sure about it. In August I plan on heading up to New Hampshire and taking my practical station for National Registry and I have to revisit all of this again.  My practical day for both my EMT and paramedic exams were pretty anxiety filled.  I wanted to get it done and never look back and that is really what I did.  Now I have twelve years of bad habits to put aside for one day of testing. Still though, even after all these years my paramedic instrutor Gary Childs, or GAC as he was known back then, standing over me reminding me to “rip the tape” on my IV station or stressing the importance of that first rhythm interperatation on a quick look.  I was well educated in paramedic school and for that I am extremely greatful. Paramedic school was extremely fun but challenging all at the same time.  I had a great group of classmates and we were close.  Some of us were college students who had entered a small four year program together while others were from fire departments, private services, and the community.  Regardless of our background we all bonded quickly and even today when I see any of them it is always nice to catch up on the old times and figure out where everyone is today.  Having them around helped surpress a lot of that anxiety that I had.  I always knew that if I had a problem that an insturctor did not point out to me one of them would share it with me. When it came time for state testing though I was on my own.  I had no partner...

Study, Study, Study!

I have a confession to make.  I have not taken a test in 11 years that was not based on material that I was taught in the few days prior.  That is to say, since college, if it was not ACLS, PHTLS, or some other EMS related course, I have not tested on it.  It has also been 12 years since I took a standardized paramedic certification test.  Now, I am on the verge of facing the National Registry paramedic test head on.  Every piece of information that I obtained in 1999 and 2000 will be called out, along with anything else that I might have learned along the way.  No pressure, right? The biggest change that I have seen over the years is the way that we are able to study is completely different.  Back then, having information “at my finger tips” involved me adjurning to my book shelf or hoping that the correct material was hiding in my bag somewhere.  Now with the inventions of Google, the enhancement and growth of the internet answers are even easier to come by, as they should be.  I am struggling though to figure out if that will make it easier for me to study or harder. I feel like I am a prety computer savvy individual with a good grasp on what is out there in cyber space but in embracing that I am also putting aside much of what I previously knew. For my entire academic career, when I had to I buried my nose in a book.  I was not very good at studying mainly because I did not do it.  My grades in high school were good, not great but good.  They were that way because as I look back now, I was bored.  I did not study very often and somehow still did well on tests but my grades were brought down becuase I was one of those lazy kids that did not see the value of homework.  When I got to college that hurt me in some of my classes because my study skills were not as good as some of my peers.  It was not until I got into...

Where has SBK Been?

Yes, I know, it has been a while. I feel like an absentee landlord failing to plug a leak in the blogosphere but here I am, back for a quick update. To put it lightly, June was a stressful month for a number of reasons both professional and personal. As time has gone on, I have pushed through, mainly with a focus on studying for my national and getting that Disco Patch on my shoulder. Because of this my time to spend updating you all on my progress and sharing my thoughts on what is going on in the world of EMS has suffered. Rest assured though that I am still here. With each day that I spend studying and with each practice test that I take I am feeling more and more confident with the information I have refreshed on and retained. Still though, I am still dealing with a considerable amount of test anxiety. Want to read about what I am going through? Check out my Wednesday and Friday posts. They will give you a better idea! Rest assured, as my Quest continues, I will keep you all updated. Failure is not an option. Stay safe out there! Share...

The Portable Paramedic

In preparation for my quest for the disco patch, I started looking at reciprocity requirements throughout the country and I came to one conclusion: being a paramedic and trying to move is very frustrating.  For the life of me though I cannot figure out why this is. When I went through paramedic school so many years ago, we had a mix of people in my class: there were two of us from New Jersey, many from Massachusetts, one of New Hampshire, and a few from Connecticut.  We went through our Massachusetts approved paramedic class, but not all of us tested in Massachusetts.  A few of my classmates decided to go directly down to Connecticut and test there, as they had no intention of working in an EMS system in the great Commonwealth. Here is how it went: the classmate that I sat right next to who got the same training as I did, took the same tests, did the same amount of field and clinical time drove across a boarder that was less than twenty miles to the south a took a test that was not identical to mine but similar.  Both of us passed.  She worked for a service south of that boarder, and I worked for one to the north of it.  Despite the fact that our training was identical, in order for us to work in each other’s states we each would have more hoops to jump through to again prove our worth as a paramedic. Now, expand that out to a more national scale.  Some states accept certifications from other states as being just as good as certs from their own.  Others only accept National Registry.  Still others feel that National Registry is not even good enough and they require you to come in and take their state’s test.  Still another state on the west coast requires National Registry, a state certification, and then clearance within the specific county you choose to work in if you want to care for their sick and injured. Then there are Oregon and Texas.  Add on to that a minimum of an Associate’s Degree.  While I feel that these two states are right on...

Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

There comes a time when we all reach a crossroads in our lives when we are forced to make a decision of where to go and what to do next.  I reached that point just the other day and have decided that it is time to make some changes in my life.  I’ve realized that there is more out there beyond my little world and I want to go out and explore a bit. The gut checks that I have had to do on myself have been becoming more and more frequent, and I feel that it is time to put myself first, which is something that I frequently fail at.  Far too often I have made my job and other responsibilities while pushing my own well-being to the back burner.  It has never been a smart decision and always seems to go against the “practice what you preach” concept that I advocate for so frequently, but I am learning. Changes take time, and they take effort.  The next steps in my life are going to be a sizeable challenge but if… no.. WHEN the ends justify the means then I know I will be happier and in a better place in life.  The first step for me is an obvious one: my quest for the coveted Disco Patch has begun!  The next six weeks of my life is going to be spent nose in a book studying for an upcoming National Registry test.  From there, the possibilities are limitless. One thing that is not going away or changing is my love for writing.  In fact, my upcoming adventures are a real inspiration and I would like to invite you along for the ride.  It might be a bit bumpy, but eventually things are going to smooth out and everything will be okay. The only question that I have though is: do those disco patches come with a leisure suit or do I have to buy that myself? Share...