A while ago, I worked my first shift as an EMT-in-training. I use the word “worked” loosely, as I did very little work and quite a bit of standing and watching. My shift took place after only 3 days of classes, and I felt like I knew very little about emergency medical care. Every time I went to do something on the ambulance, I totally messed it up. That sounds dramatic but let me assure you, it is not an exaggeration. I just wanted to do my best and be helpful, but I felt like more of a hindrance than anything. But I had to work for 12 hours, so I told myself to shake it off, and press on.
The paramedic told me to press the red button on the ambulance. I couldn’t find the red button. I literally had to make the medic stop what she was doing to show me how to push a button. Then I couldn’t figure out how to open the ambulance door from the inside. Then I almost got hit by a car when we were stopped at a traffic accident. Then I dropped the computer. Eleven hours later, I just wanted to be done. I was tired and ready to go home and sleep all my failures off. With 45 minutes left of my shift, the radio went off. We received a call to a nursing home for the transfer of a resident. Off we went. It was a simple transfer, so once we got to the nursing home, I decided to actually try and be useful. Surely I could assist with a simple transfer and so I went to the front of the group and asked how I could help. Nope. As I was doing my best to blend into the wall, a worker at the nursing home looked at me and asked, “Are you in training?” I tried to laugh it off and asked, “Is it that easy to tell?” She laughed and confirmed that yes, it was very easy to tell that I had no idea what I was doing. Thank you for that confirmation. I made some comment to try and direct the conversation in another direction, but she stopped me and said, “I am so glad you are in training. It means you are learning.” I again tried to politely steer the conversation away from myself and she eventually left me in order to assist with the patient.
Once the patient was on the stretcher and we were ready to transport her to the ambulance, I moved out of the way and let the crowd go ahead as I stayed back and followed. But the nursing home aid stopped and stayed behind with me. As I passed her, she looked at me and said, “Good luck with your training, and never be afraid to make mistakes. Mistakes are the only way to know that you are actually learning. So many people come here and never learn because they are afraid to fail. I am so glad I could tell you are training; do not be ashamed of that. It means you are one that is willing to fail in order to be better. Never forget that success always starts by looking like a failure. Never be afraid to look like you’re training.”
Too often, I let my pride get in the way of my learning. Too often, I am so afraid of looking bad, I never even try. But I was not created to live that way. I was created with the ability to learn from my mistakes and my failures; to continue trying with the knowledge that even when I fail, I can learn. I am sure I am going to fail a lot over the next four years, but my prayer is that rather than getting discouraged, each failure will bring a lesson that will ultimately make me a better physician, a better friend, a better human. Even just a few weeks in, I am already learning that medicine is much more than physiology. My medical education is about more than my grades. This journey’s purpose is to stretch me, challenge me, grow me and transform me into a person, who is capable of providing care to broken people, as a broken person myself. It is a journey to learn how to leave people healthier than I found them, both physically and spiritually. To show people compassion, respect and love. I hope I am never afraid to look like I am training. There will be plenty of failures and lessons along the way.
I am originally from Buffalo, New York where I grew up eating real chicken wings, watching the Buffalo Bills, working as a barista and shoveling four feet of snow off my driveway each morning. I moved down south in 2013 to attend North Greenville University where I obtained a degree in biology with a focus on environmental studies. During my time at NGU I gained both a passion for health care and a love for the community of Greenville. So when I decided to attend medical school, it was no question that USCSOMG was my top choice. I am stoked to be beginning my journey to become a physician as a member of the Class of 2020.
Copyright 2014 USC School of Medicine Greenville