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From the front of the room: An educator's perspective

There's no need to sacrifice our backs

By Lori Gallian

I look for students like Stephanie in the class — the ones who aren’t afraid to jump right in and just try. I appreciate the "watchers" too; those who "watch" first and then try.

Her instructor was right about skills being a combination of preparation, practice and luck. 

Skill labs offer an invaluable time to spend learning in a small group with an experienced EMT. Prior to your lab, consider watching a YouTube video of the skill that you will be practicing in class. It might not be perfect, but it will give you some idea of what you will be doing. 

Bring your skills sheet and paper to write on, and be prepared to actively listen to how the instructor explains the skill. After the instructor has presented the material, don’t be afraid to ask questions if something is unclear. Chances are, someone in your group has the same question and was waiting for you to ask.

Get as much practice time in as you can, especially with lifting and moving. We have sacrificed too many of our backs to the EMS gods. Lifting can be tricky for many reasons, but there are lots of tips and techniques that can be used to overcome the challenges. For example, if you are squatting tilt your head back and stare at the sky. 

This puts your back in proper alignment and reduces injury. Also, practice lifting everything when while its empty, and then add books, backpacks or anything else you can find in class.  Once you are comfortable work your way up to the largest person you can safely lift without help. Learn your limits in class. 

Increase your core training at the gym to keep your back healthy, and if you haven’t been to the gym in a while this is a good time to start!  Prevention always beats the cure.

Remember, asking for help in lifting a patient is NOT a sign of weakness; it's a sign of wisdom.

Louis Pasteur once said, "Fortune favors the prepared mind." The more prepared you are for the skill, the "luckier" you will feel. However, as class progresses you might start to feel very unlucky. As you gain confidence in lifting and moving patients, we might work that skill into a scenario that will seem impossible. 

Mistakes are welcomed and failure in skills practice is a good thing. In the classroom, learning is safe and supervised; no one is harmed.  Moreover, the instructor has the opportunity to pass on a tip or trick they learned from the harshest of taskmasters, namely experience.

Lifting and moving is a core part of our job, but our profession is centered on patient care. Never forget to talk to that person that you are moving or lifting. In class, make sure you spend some time as the "patient", and take note of how you were addressed during the moving and lifting process. 

Patients will rarely compliment you on your safe lifting techniques, but they just might remember and comment on your kindness.

About the educator:

Lori Gallian have been in EMS for 22 years and have been a paramedic for 20.  She teaches EMT classes at Woodland Community College, is the EMS coordinator for Woodland Fire Department and works full-time for AMR in Sacramento County, California.


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