If you ask anybody in the world of medicine what they think is the intersection between science and popular entertainment, Grey’s Anatomy emerges as one of the most widespread household names in the category of medical shows. From never-ending social drama to surgery-induced emotional roller coasters, every episode I watch is filled with suspense. The show perpetually keeps me on edge, and as a student on the pre-med track I like to watch the show to see which aspects are realistic and which ones might not be.
The first commonality I found between the series and my experiences is the heightened level of stress in the atmosphere of operation rooms and emergency rooms. While shadowing doctors, I have encountered patients in many different critical conditions, from burns to cardiac conditions to neurological trauma. In the series, like in real life, the characters exhibit traits which are necessary for doctors to perform their jobs well in a high-stress environment, like the ability to think straight and quickly despite time constraints and the distractions and noise surrounding the doctor. Although I was only an observer in a hospital environment, I felt the importance of paying close attention to every small detail in the situation and being able to juggle them. I knew if I wished to take on that lead physician’s role in the years to come, I would have to begin practicing that level of close attentiveness early on. What caused the trauma? How do I formulate the patient update to the family without causing them to worry unnecessarily? What’s the best course of action when discovering a new impactful injury while treating the initial injury? I’ve started thinking about all of these things while still being in the observer’s position, both in front of the TV screen and physically in the hospital. To me, these considerations are part of the preparation required for what promises to be an exhausting, yet fulfilling, career.
“Hey, hey, pretty exciting stuff today guys!” From the beginning of August until the day before school started, these words signaled the beginning of a new, didactic lecture. Instructors from the California Institute of Emergency Medical Technicians (CIEMT) partnered up with EMSC, a student-run organization of Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT-B), to provide a three week long EMT-B certification class here at USC. This three week long course consisted of 11 fifteen hour sessions, covering a variety of topics such as patient assessment, trauma, cardiovascular emergencies, respiratory emergencies, and neurological emergencies.
As an aspiring pre-med student, I realized that becoming an EMT would give me direct exposure to the medical field. While most people think of EMTs as the people who drive ambulances, EMTs actually do much more than that. They are one of the first medical responders on the scene, providing both efficient and immediate care to their patients. Being able to adapt to any situation, as well as being able to communicate and treat the patient in the most appropriate manner, are all crucial skills required to work in the field.
The biggest mistake I made was walking into the first day of class not knowing what to expect. After a small introduction, our main instructor, Matt Goodman, made it clear that this class would be like nothing we would ever experience. I, like many of my other classmates, had doubts about the difficulty. Most of us were pre-med. We all knew the struggles of difficult classes. But, like Matt said, this was different. Matt would cold call, meaning he’d randomly direct a question to one unlucky student at any point in time and expect that student to know the answer. If a student didn’t know the answer… Matt would yell. He was really good at striking fear and angst into everyone the moment he started to ask questions. He had the uncanny ability to instantly flip the switch from being an genial instructor to a military general. Everything we did or said was wrong to him. And yet, at the same time, I realized that Matt yelled at us because real life EMTs have to endure an immense amount of pressure; there’s nothing more stressful than the responsibility of saving someone’s life. He yelled at us so that we would be prepared for a high pressure environment.