It turns out, that after less than a decade in EMS, I have suddenly, practically overnight, become one of them.
When I started, I'd always turn to them, sometimes shy, sometimes fearful, mostly confused, and look for approval, for knowledge, for an explanation.
Over the years I've relied on them less and less, but never forgotten that the basic requirement needed for expertise, is experience itself, and those with more than me will always have something new to teach.
In the last few weeks and months, a few people have left the ambulance service. Some of the service elders have retired, some have moved to different services, some have left to do different things, both ambulance related and otherwise. All of this has made me one of them.
Ambulance work and the world of EMS is changing all the time. Many of the newer recruits are joining through universities, bringing a new atmosphere to the workplace, one where study is a vital component. Up until not very long ago, a paramedic would study for a few weeks, pass a couple of exams and walk away with their qualification. Then every so often, maybe every three years or so, they would be asked to show that they have retained their knowledge and skills in a short refresher course. Now, a paramedic course is merely the basis on which to build.
I have to admit, I've never been a particularly studious type. My school grades were average at best and I was especially useless at sciences. If my biology teacher ever found out what I did for a living, they'd probably need my services almost immediately. My university grades (in a course not in any way related to the medical world) never happened due to the fact that I couldn't keep quiet in a lecture and would often find myself being restrained by friends when a lecturer tried to teach something false as though it was gospel. I lasted less than one semester. Clearly I didn't want to study, I just wanted to learn. Life was going to change direction, despite the fact that I had no idea what that direction was.
The first time I ever passed exams with flying colours, was several years later, when I joined the ambulance service. Finally, I knew what I wanted to do, what I wanted to learn. This time, however, I knew that I had no choice. If I wanted to learn, I had to study. And so I did. But this job can't just be learnt in the class room. There always have been, and always will be, those calls where nothing you learn whilst sitting at a desk will be of any use. Only two things will help: common sense, and often, most importantly, experience.
In nearly a decade, I've seen a lot, but I haven't seen everything. There are calls that I know of, that I've heard about colleagues who have attended, and that I thank my lucky stars to not have shared the same experience. Yet. Then, there are the calls I attend that my colleagues will think the same of me. However, as time goes on, there are fewer of the former and more of the latter. And with more and more of the new breed of paramedic, the studious type, I'm having to do more and more to keep up.
At the same time, however, as well as just learning the theory, today's paramedics need to learn from the voice of experience. Suddenly, it seems, practically overnight, I have become one of them. One of the elders of the tribe, who, whilst maintaining they're still young(ish), portray this image of having a wealth of knowledge and information, understanding and experience, just from having been around the block a couple of times.
I like the fact that people who are only at the start of the ladder of their careers feel they can ask me for my ideas and suggestions.
I like the fact that sometimes I even have the answers, and sometimes, possibly rarely, I might even be right.
I like the fact that when I don't have the answers, that I'm now bothered about it enough to go and do some homework.
I like feeling like I'm suddenly, practically overnight, one of them.
It's just that it scares the crap out of me.