I’ve talked with quite a few firefighters about their careers. Aside from “this is the best job in the world,” the one thing they have all said to me is “I wish I would have kept a journal since the start of my career.” I resolved that I would do that starting with my first tour. After graduation I was riding pretty high on emotion and had three blissful days off before my first tour was to begin.
In my department, a tour consists of 5 shifts that are 24 hours each with 24 hours off in between. Say my first shift was on a Monday: I work Monday from 6am to Tuesday 6am and then I’m off until Wednesday at 6am…. After 5 shifts worked, I’m off for 6 days.
My first shift was 12/15/2015. I couldn’t sleep at all the night before because I was so excited. My station is 45 minutes from my house, and I drive an old vehicle, so I left an hour early and ended up getting to the station early. The firefighter I was relieving was a classmate of mine, so that helped to relieve a bit of anxiety.
When I arrived at the house, I chatted with the firefighter I was relieving for a bit. She told me how her first shift had gone and showed me quite a few things around the house. I was very grateful to have her there as she gave me some great tips, and she is very encouraging! The rest of her crew was asleep, so I quietly went about my duties around the station. As the prior crew got up and my new crew came in, I began to get very excited for what the day would bring.
I had met most of my crew a week or so prior on a “station visit”, so I knew my Captain and my senior firefighter (who is actually a paramedic, as my truck is a “paramedic assist unit”).
As the “boot” (probationary firefighter), my job includes many of the housekeeping duties: making coffee, getting the mail and the paper, putting the flag up, cleaning out the truck, etc. Each shift I also take all of my gear off of the truck and go through it to make sure my supplies are stocked and my equipment is all accounted for. As this was my first shift, I took notes on everything that was in each bag, and went through the entire truck and took notes on where to find what. This is important as in an emergency situation I don’t want to be fumbling around looking for things. On calls, my primary job is to do a patient assessment, get vital signs and back up my medic. This early on, I’m primarily doing vitals.
The first morning seemed to start off pretty slowly. This is not a super busy station, but I was ready for anything.
My first call was for a “sick person”. A lady was having an anxiety attack at a retail store. I was doing fine with getting all my gear off the truck and making sure I had my proper safety gear on (hat, glasses, gloves etc). As I entered the store, I think I went into tunnel vision and was focused only on the patient. I didn’t take in any of the scene or what was going on around me. I could only recognize this in hindsight. I had a lot of trouble getting a manual blood pressure on the patient also. I tried several times and couldn’t. I know how to “palpate” a systolic (feel for the pulse to get the top number) but felt like I was holding up the medic by taking too long so I told him that I was having trouble getting the pressure. He ended up taking it with the monitor. Back at the station we talked through the call and he said “Don’t be so quick to give up when you have a problem getting the bp. Palpate or watch the needle bounce”. I explained my thought process and assured him that next time I would keep pressing on. Lesson learned. The patient ultimately declined treatment and her family drove her into the ER. I was discouraged and irritated at myself. However, as my lead training Captain said “it’s all about the recovery. Each call gets your 100%.”
A couple of hours go by and our next call is for “chest pain” at a mental health facility nearby. As I get on scene I’m trying to be more cognizant of what’s going on all around and take in the whole scene. As soon as I see the patient I realize he looks just like Snoop!
As the day went on we had a few more calls and a crazy call in the middle of the night. I had survived the first shift of my career! I made a few mistakes and did a few things right and they hadn’t told me to turn in my badge yet! (#Winning)
Over the course of the rest of my tour I’d run on domestic violence calls, pediatric calls, chest pains, a code arrest, strokes, car crashes, heroin users, and much more. I started to feel more confident in getting vital signs and interacting with patients and my role at the station. After each call, we’d ride back to the station and I’d stare out my window as I rode backwards on the truck. I would pray for the patient of each call we ran on, and would also think to myself “Living the dream.”
I truly am living the dream. I get to be an agent for good in a small way each and every day! Thank you God!
ps I’m near the end of my second tour and they still haven’t fired me! 🙂
ppss my Captain says I’m keeping a diary. hahaha