Post by Jensyn Cone
USC School of Medicine Greenville requires all first-year medical students complete a 200-hour Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) certification course and serve as practicing EMTs during medical school.

“Doctors think we’re idiots.”

The paramedic turned to look in my eyes as he said that. It was 2:30 a.m. on a Saturday morning. I was lounging in a deserted fire station with two medics waiting for our next call. The conversation had turned to how doctors view medics’ capabilities. That statement took me aback. It made me think, will the day come when I, too, take for granted the decades of experience, tireless work, and gracious kindness medics treat my patients with? I hope not.

That simple sentence carried enormous impact. Changed my thinking process.

I don’t want to be that doctor. I don’t want to have an authority complex.

After experiencing EMT training, I understand why USC School of Medicine Greenville requires it. It’s first-hand proof that doctors can’t do it all. Medicine leaves no room for doctors to flaunt education, ability, or income in other healthcare workers’ faces. What it does leave room for is professionals of all types uniting, using their unique abilities to achieve a common goal: saving some lives and making others better.

Many of my classmates have mentioned how EMT training has shaped their thinking process, how it gave them a broader view of medicine and a unique respect for the myriad of medical professionals who support doctors. We all agree these professionals aren’t inferior.

Can doctors insert IVs into dehydrated patients in the back of a rig flying down the interstate at 60 mph? Could a plastic surgeon save a cardiac arrest victim with blatant confidence?

EMT training has taught me that we need all types of medical professionals to succeed and keep our patients healthy.

I believe this kind of paradigm shift—exposing students not just to many different types of doctoring, but to many different types of medical professionals—is one of the most wonderful things about USC School of Medicine Greenville.

Our medical school doesn’t just want to make us technically skilled, violently brilliant, culturally literate, superb communicators. Sure, they want us to be those things. But, just as important, they want to instill in us the humility to realize that no matter how excellent we are, we desperately need help. Hospitals cannot function without laundry. They cannot function without a kitchen. They cannot function without nurse assistants. As such, I believe USC School of Medicine Greenville wants us to know that these people are all critical to the greater healthcare team. And recognizing and respecting the roles of all healthcare team members will make us better doctors.

As I think back to that late night in the fire station, I understand the true meaning of the medic’s statement, “Doctors think we’re idiots.” Hidden beneath his words was this plea:

“Jensyn, when you’re a doctor, don’t be like that.”

4 Responses to The Doctor I Don’t Want to Be

  1. David Nelson says:

    Well spoken, Jensyn. Thank you for sharing your philosophy. Your Grandfather

  2. Patti Galan says:

    Jensyn,
    This is so well written and beautiful. This is an amazing look into the heart and soul of one being prepared to serve others. I am so very proud of your accomplishments, but I am even more proud of who you are. Yes, it takes skill to be a good doctor, but it takes a servants heart, along with that skill to be a great doctor. I love you, Gramma

  3. Bruce Dennis says:

    Bravo for this article! As a pre-med student I was an inhalation therapist — and got a close-up view of what health care professionals do. The best doctors were the ones who trusted and respected the input of the nurses and technicians working beside them. Every person on the team is essential — one alone — no matter their education or intelligence — cannot see, hear, feel or do everything that is needed to save a life. Now I am a chaplain, and though many medical professionals seem to think that role is dispensable, I know from experience that it is often the one piece of the puzzle that can turn a prognosis from bad to good. Thanks, Jensyn!

  4. Patrick Browning says:

    Jensyn,

    Thank you for your kind comments and thoughtful plans for the future. You are starting out the right way by taking the EMT course and seeing the myriad examples of what paramedics and EMTs do 24/7. Often through the years, I, along with other paramedics and EMTs have worked with a penlight in our mouth to illuminate just enough to see to start a crucial IV in a dark, cold, cramped and wet space with the possibility of the wrecked auto we were in being engulfed in flames or rolling over into freezing water. All the while, trying to comfort the conscious patient with reassurances that we would not leave them, no matter what happened. No one but us and the patient sees those times. Your experience with EMTs will do much to bridge that gap between the unheralded ancillary medical and non-medical personnel that conribute to the team’s success. Fortunately for MDs, and not so often for the rest of us, you get to follow up and know the patients’ outcomes. The patient generally credits the doctors and nurses with their recovery because they do not see or remember the rest of us–even those of us that risk our lives to get them to YOU for intensive treatment. But that is really okay for us. We EMTs and paramedics long ago learned that we must be our own cheerleaders. Best wishes in your career as a physician, I KNOW that you will do well.

    Patrick E. Browning, Sr., BS, MHS, NREMT-P
    Mobile Care Ambulance Service
    Greenville Hospital System

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