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PR – public relations or potential recruits?

Monday, October 19, 2015 3:44 PM | PAAW Administrator (Administrator)
Setting the new PR materials up, I adjust a few times and then stand back – admiring. The new materials are an improvement, but the gist of the morning will follow the same as it has for the past five years.

We’re at the area conference center. In one hall are the colleges and recruiters. Set up over here in the other hall are the “trades”. Welders, nursing instructors from the area technical college, fire fighters and police officers, musicians and veterinarians – we all have our own partitioned off space and folding chairs. A few partitions over are the other public service professionals and we’ve exchanged greetings and caught up already. I see across the walkway that the welder has a TV and video set up, and I smile. Outclassed again, new display notwithstanding. The firefighters usually have a power point, and the turnout gear and halligan are great conversation starters.

The overhead voice alerts us in a deafening blast that the students are coming, the students are coming – two minutes out! And my heart rate kicks up a bit. Four years prior I’ve done this and every time it’s the same. In the weeks prior, I always consider typing up handouts, I think of visual aids. In the end, I put my trifold handouts on the table in front of my seats, and I wait.

The ambient noise increases, and here they come. Dressed in business casual, these high school juniors flock to their chosen trades, giving us 25 minutes of their busy young lives. A side benefit is that I have the opportunity to see how old I am, how far my fashion sense is from the trendy looks sported by these blithe young people. Today, of course, I stand in my navy blue uniform and my feet are primly encased in black boots laced neatly over wool socks. The small diamond studs and wedding ring are my only nods to femininity – and since my 13yr old daughter and I had a mommy and daughter day, my nails are pink and sparkly. Eeek. Maybe no one will notice.

They file in and like they’re in church, they fill up the back rows first. I started out with maybe 20 chairs my first year and now they allot me around 50. The area high schools attending this career fair spend part of their time here in visiting colleges/recruiters, and then they’re allowed to attend two career sessions with a presenter. They choose in advance and the amount of chairs correlates to how many wide eyeballs I’ll be talking to today. I’ll have multiple groups throughout the morning and into early afternoon.

I make eye contact, keep my stance open and make small talk as they file in. The veterinarian and the sports medicine presenters aren’t here and so I’m inheriting extras. They sit in groups, schools together, and cliques together. The omniscient overhead voice alerts us that we may begin. The students quiet, turn toward me and I’m on. Here we go. Maybe I should’ve had a handout/power point/video? Nah.

I start easy, covering the requested information, weaving in some of my personal spin. Educational requirements, career growth, range of pay, advancement, etc. I weave in the things I want them to take away the most – try what interests you, never be afraid to start anew. I tell them I was 31 when I stepped foot in my first paramedic curriculum class. I make them laugh as I describe the moment I was informed I was a non-traditional student, and asked to be a spokesperson for that demographic. I describe the challenges and opportunities of clinicals, the various environments and some snapshots of the people I met along the way. I describe the rural area I began to volunteer in, some smaller school students nod as I describe where I’m from.

I touch on prerequisites and linger on the importance of CPR. I slow it down as I describe how, often, the life you may save with CPR is most likely to be a friend or family member. I describe our urban environment, connecting with the larger school students as I explain system status management, and ask who’s seen us at the mall area, or posting in the parking lot by the YMCA. I open it up to questions and answers, and with a little nudging and encouraging smiles, the questions begin to come. Slowly at first, then in a flood.

Always, hidden in there and generally early on, comes the one question I dread. Someone always wants to know, “what’s the worst thing you’ve seen?” Of course I don’t tell them, I generally sidestep it but this first group today presses. They really want to know. So we take a moment and discuss one of the side effects of the job; the things we see and carry, the importance in life – no matter what the profession – of having a support network. People you can talk to, healthy ways to decompress. I tell them that the worst call I’ve seen was personal to the patient, the family and those of us called to help. I tell them we are just doing the job. I tell them that some days the job takes a little more – oh, but some days! Some days the job gives you the uplifting lilt of a grandma’s smile, the hand reaching out, the hug or joke of thanks. And some days, some days the job can take your breath away.

Some students want to be heard, to tell of a day the ambulance came to their house. I listen, we listen, we honor this moment of sharing and of remembered fear or grief. Sometimes it’s a funny story. A boy in the rear row is leaning forward now, despite his earlier demeanor of grudging attendance, he’s drawn in. He was inherited from the sports medicine booth, and he was too cool for my booth at first. Now, eyes lit up, he raises his hand. I nod and he asks, “What’s the best call you’ve ever been on?”

Easy. I lean against the table and I take them back in time. I tell of the night me and my “little brother”/tall partner were new medics, diverted from a “nausea, vomiting, diarrhea” call to an “imminent delivery, caller states he sees a foot” call. I have them laughing as I describe the organized chaos of two newer medics hurrying across a front yard carrying all the accoutrements they might possibly need. I tell of how we can’t say we delivered the baby, how my partner caught the baby in the tub as it neatly delivered itself, head first after all.

I have their full attention as I describe asking my partner if he wanted the mama or the newborn, as we now had two patients and no first responders yet. I describe searching for the scalpel, catching my breath as I look down into the new little face and see obsidian eyes open and look around in wonder. I tell them frankly that it was as close as I’ve ever been to touching the face of God, to see this little man take an enormous breath and pinken up beautifully.

There’s a Spanish teacher in the back row on the left and I realize there are tears streaking down her face. So I lighten it up a bit and describe how the cord cutting reminded me a little of cutting thru a thicker piece of asparagus with a fork. How my partner made a “gurk” sound and when I looked over, the placenta had slithered onto his boot, where he was still in the dry tub with the mother. I wrap it up with a synopsis before the session must end. I tell them that we don’t do this for the money, we don’t do it for the occasional life saving moment we are blessed to be an instrument in.

I tell them, we do it for the people. I speak then for myself. I tell them that there are jobs with more glory, jobs with more fun tools and authority and yes, even videos and power points. But I look them in the eye and I tell them that this job, for me, is priceless. When people don’t know what else to do, they call us. When they’re scared or afraid or in pain or sometimes just lonely, they call us. They throw up on us, they hand us their children, and they bring us to the back bedroom where their mother or father or spouse isn’t breathing anymore.

And they trust us. I explain to these young adults that often in life when you give, you receive. And sometimes, you give more than you thought you had in you. But sometimes, you receive more than money can buy. Moments that are golden and babies that look up at you with brand new and age old eyes that see you with infinite wisdom.

The voice tells us it’s time to disburse. Students cluster around, handouts disappear at a rapid rate and many ask about ridealongs, CPR certification, job shadows. Stories rush out, cliques are gone and students are involved in group discussions.

At lunch time, the musician comes over for our yearly lunch. Carrying the sack lunch provided, she says, “well, my daughter that sat in your session is taking the Health Science Academy. She follows you on Tumblr and PAAW. She says your job is the one she wants because no one talks of their job like you do. What do you say?”

I grin and say, “I just let them walk with me for 25 minutes. They seem to like it.”

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