Becoming an emergency medical technician is a highly practical and hands-on career, which is why the training for this line of work will consist of an EMT clinical or two. In fact, the more practical work you do during your training, the better equipped you will be to work as an EMT once you have received your qualification to do so. An EMT clinical can be daunting, especially at first, but it does not take very long to become used to the tasks that you will perform in a medical emergency situation.
What Is An EMT Clinical?
An EMT is a health care specialist who is trained to respond to medical emergencies and provide hands-on care at the scene. Consequently it is necessary that they complete a large portion of clinical work during their training. This is mandatory and you will not be able to become an EMT if you do not complete the EMT clinical requirements.
A clinical will usually take place in a real-world healthcare setting under the supervision of a preceptor. Your preceptor may be one of the following:
- A nurse
- A paramedic
- Another EMT of a level higher than the level for which you are training
In cases where your training course is not being offered at a facility where you will have the opportunity to receive real-world training, you will be informed by your instructor of facilities that have policies in place allowing for trainee EMTs to work there in order to complete the clinical portion of their course. If you are at the basic level of training, you will complete approximately 24 hours of clinicals in the emergency department through which you have been told to complete your EMT clinical work and training. A sensible EMT trainee will take any opportunities offered to gain real-world experience.
Surviving EMT Clinicals
One of the biggest challenges for new EMTs is that the nurses or doctors who are in charge of their EMT clinical are far from happy to be there and are, at the very best, unhelpful. This is very difficult to cope with, especially as you are turning to those experts for guidance in your career. Although many trainee EMTs are matched with preceptors that are more than willing to give all help necessary, this is not the norm and you cannot assume that you will receive all of the guidance that you would like. Try to stay close to those nurses and paramedics that seem friendly and willing to help you. If you have a preceptor who repeatedly tells you to take your own initiative and just get involved, you must be careful. As a trainee there is a limit to what you are allowed to do in a health care setting. You have to be supervised, and you should raise any instances where you feel as though are given work that you are unprepared for or that you feel uncomfortable about doing. There are liability issues involved here. If you feel that you are not being challenged during your EMT clinical experience, or that you are not learning through the clinical, you should raise this worry with a supervisor or instructor.
You Are There To Learn
You are there to learn valuable skills for your career as an EMT, not to do all of the grunt work and function as a kind of slave for your preceptor or supervisor. If you feel that you are not learning anything or that your learning experience is being curtailed in some way, take it up with your course instructor. However this does not mean that you should get ideas above your station. If your supervisor or preceptor tells you to do some of the grunt work, do it with a good attitude, and bring it up later. You will, after all, need to know how to do the basic cleanup operations as well as how to provide primary care to your patient at the scene of a medical emergency. Only make an issue if grunt work forms the main part of your EMT clinical.
There are a number of reasons why you should offer to help your preceptors in your EMT clinical:
- It will make them remember you as a ‘good’ student
- It will provide you with opportunities to practice that the other EMT trainees may not have access to
Consequently two of the most important questions that you should ask during an EMT clinical are:
- “What can I do to help you?”
- “Can I help you with that?”
In addition, if your preceptor asks you to do something, you should automatically say yes (in most cases) and complete the task with a smile on your face. However, there are exceptions to this in cases where you asked opt do something that is outside the boundaries of what you are allowed to do as an EMT trainee.
No Guesses Allowed
If you are in a situation in your EMT clinical where you do not know what to do, or where you are not sure of how to proceed with a test or treatment, ask for help. Do not guess about what you should do next. This could lead to a fatal error. Do not make claims that are not true. If you claim to be able to perform a task as an EMT, but you are not in fact as skilled as you make out to be, you may end up jeopardizing the life of the patient. If you make a mistake do not lie about it and do not cover it up. You must start to think from the point of view of a real EMT, and that point of view always puts the patient first above your own needs and priorities.
There are a number of additional tips which you can keep in mind:
- Remember that you are not there to watch, you are there to learn and practice your skills. After some initial watching you should try to get involved in the proceedings.
- Your preceptor is in charge, so you must do what he or she says, provided it is within the scope of what you are allowed to do.
- Sometimes your supervisor may try to test you in fairly subtle ways, so be on your feet. For example a preceptor may give you the opportunity to practice a skill on a patient that does not need that service performed. You should, in this case, point out that the patient does not need the skill, and decline the opportunity.
- During your training you must not do anything that is outside of your skill set. Even if you have learned some of the more advanced skills in your previous EMT clinical or theory training, do not perform those skills unless you are specifically instructed to do so by your preceptor.
- An important tip to keep in mind is that it is wise to use “three-way communication”: When the preceptor asks you to do something, repeat it back to the preceptor and wait for a yes/no response before proceeding. This will guarantee that you are all on the same page.
- If you have a weak spot, or aren’t confident in a specific skill, ask your preceptor to help you with it. They may have a different approach that makes it fall into place for you. They’re there to help you succeed, but they can’t help you if you won’t help yourself by telling them what you need. Your preceptor is there to help you and it is your responsibility to ask them for that help when the need arises.
- Even if you feel that you are an expert in a particular skill, don’t brag about it. It is better to show your abilities through actions rather than through words. This will go down much better with your preceptor.
- If there is nothing for you to do in your EMT clinical setting, you should take that opportunity to study some of your theory work – this will look good in the eyes of your instructors who will be evaluating you and will give you a chance to brush up on some of the skills that you may need.
- Last but not least you should look for opportunities to help at all times as this will allow you to gain practice and to stand out in the eyes of your preceptor.
You will, most likely, be rather nervous during your first EMT clinical, but it is important that you do your best to keep your focus and to do the work to the best of your ability. The tips mentioned above are just a starting point for you to refer to in order to make your clinical go a whole lot more smoothly than you expect it to, and many of the tips can be carried forward into your next clinicals as well.