Becoming an EMT: Seeing the big picture
Learning how to learn is as important as learning it
By Stephanie Marshall Limmer
True Confession: I am right brain dominant. I can be logical, analytical, and detail oriented with the best of the left-brainers, but my learning style is very right brain- visual, conceptual and intuitive.
I tend to be a "big picture" person. I understand larger concepts and how they play a role in EMS.I can picture how a call should go from the time of dispatch to the time you transfer care at the hospital.
However, the picture in my head is very broad brush strokes- more like an impressionist painting. When I try to focus my brain on the details, such as the sequential steps of assessment, my head wants to explode and my mind wanders off.
So far, from my experience in EMT class, EMS education appears to be very left brain oriented. It only takes one look at the NREMT skill sheets to recognize that memorized, logical, sequential action is required to pass the skills stations.
When we were preparing for the CPR/AED skills station a few weeks ago, I completely understood how the call should go. I realized that for 2 nights, my brain kept me working CPR in my dreams.
Unfortunately, when I woke, I still did not have all the steps clear in my head… they were just a bit fuzzy. I finally realized I needed to practice them over and over until they were rote. Then came the night of Teddy E Bear CPR.
The concept of left vs. right brain came more into focus for me the other night when we were handed a blank piece of paper and told to show that we understood how blood circulates through the heart and explain the process of oxygenated and deoxygenated blood. We could do it via narrative, list the steps or draw a picture. I drew a picture. How very right brained of me.
To take a step back, our instructor has gone over these concepts multiple times and it is in our textbook and workbook. He has presented the information in multiple ways:
- Book slides/ Lecture
- Drawing on the board
- Providing us with a narrative with fill in the blanks
From the day he drew the chambers, the valves and the process on the board, I understood it. The picture remained in my head during studying, test taking and then this recent circulatory quiz. I am sure that others in the class got more from the lecture or from the fill in the blank narrative and they in turn, probably wrote a narrative about how the blood flows through the heart.
I completely understand the need for the sequential, logical, objective methods of EMS and EMS education. I do wish that there could be more of a balance of visuals other than the book slides and skill sheets.
It has been eye opening for me to realize my learning style and how the careers I have chosen in my life have worked very well with my right-brained ways.
While we have not gotten to the practicals and I have not gone on a real call yet, I venture to guess that if I can tackle the left-brain learning part now, my right-brain dominance will be an asset on a call.
A patient will rarely present with the specific list of signs and symptoms exactly like the book. A call cannot go exactly to a script as there are many factors and variables that cannot be planned for. My ability to recognize patterns and relationships between the parts will be a real advantage when I'm out on calls.