Preceptor Principles: Experience as a Teacher
So about two weeks ago I was at home and I found myself sitting on my couch channel surfing a little bit. This was actually a bit unusual for me as I normally have plenty of interests and hobbies to keep me occupied. I guess I was in real need of some down time because I was mindlessly flipping between channels when I came across a new documentary involving the U.S. military. The big story involving the U.S. military over the past few months is the fact that they have been pulling their last soldiers and resources out of Afghanistan after a prolonged twenty-year war. The documentary itself focused on some of the soldiers who had their boots on the ground in Afghanistan and made it back home alive.
The segment of the documentary that struck me was when they were talking to a young soldier who had only been serving long enough to have completed one tour of duty there. The part of his story that resonated was when he spoke very passionately about how the soldier he was next to throughout his tour saved his life on multiple occasions. As a rookie in his first tour, he was “buddied up” with a veteran soldier who was in her third tour in Afghanistan. I hindsight, I remember that I started nodding my head in agreement as he went on in length about how she knew the ins and outs of the system that was in place over there both from their side’s perspective and the other side as well. The young soldier spoke about how she could see things either right before they happened or as they were happening and would protect him and move them out of harms way. As far as he was concerned, he would have never survived without the knowledge and wisdom that was provided by having an experienced soldier by his side.
Watching this documentary and listening to the words of the young soldier ended up having me making comparisons in my mind between the working relationship of veteran and rookie soldiers and the working relationship of a veteran and rookie/student paramedic.
There are a few differences naturally. However, these differences may depend on what part of the world you live in. Generally speaking, most paramedics do not carry guns and wear bulletproof vests. Although some do. As well, most paramedics do not have to “take cover” while dodging gunfire. Although some do.
But if you get beyond the military scenarios and look at the relationships involved, many similarities are also present.
- Rookies/students often do not realize how valuable it can be to have someone with experience beside them until they are faced with a scenario they have never seen before. Chances are the veteran has in fact seen it before and can offer some guidance or take charge if necessary.
- Most veterans do know the system that they work within very well and can offer hints and pointers about how to navigate that system on a day-to-day basis to help make your shift go as smoothly as possible. Some might interpret these hints and pointers as shortcuts and might not want to take this advice. That is perfectly fine as every paramedic needs to eventually decide for themselves how they want to act and operate over the course of their shifts and careers. What is necessary however is to hear the advice, evaluate it without quickly dismissing it, and then maybe after consulting with other paramedics or fellow students decide what path you want to follow.
- One other thing that stood out to me from the documentary was that the young soldier never once mentioned rank at any time. He only referenced her as his partner or buddy. I am not proficient when it comes to when a soldier might receive a promotion, but I would have to believe if she was in her third tour of duty that she was likely no longer a private. What matters about this scenario though is that even if she did happen to have more stripes on her shoulders than him, it would not have mattered. What made the difference was the knowledge she had. The type of knowledge that could only have been gained by experience. The type of knowledge gained by living it and breathing it.
Don’t get me wrong. Experience is not everything. Far from it. I’m sure every one of you can think of one or more experienced paramedics in your own service who are completely burnt out and should have retired years ago. But for a rookie/student paramedic who hasn’t seen anything, many things can still be learned from listening to and watching that veteran do their work. They HAVE been there and they HAVE done that so even if you get tired of hearing their stories which many do, take the time to listen, contemplate, and digest what they have said. Somewhere down the line, it may just help you.
Knowledge is power.