One of the most difficult and interesting things about being on duty is seeing a side of the world that I had never seen before. Being in university tends to put you in a little bubble, isolated from the real world. I feel like I break out of that bubble every time I put on the uniform, I become somebody more then 'just another student'. It was hard at first to deal with the drastically different world out there, but I feel I am getting used to it.
My first two patients were both very, very drunk, that made me think. Drunk students are one thing, I see them as silly kids who will eventually grow up. It's a whole other ballgame to see adults smashed out of their mind, especially knowing that they do it regularly and will never grow out of it. With the one patient in particular, I felt so sad for her. She was alone and drunk at a festival, bloody from falling down and smashing her head. She had no idea what happened and could barely state who and where she was. She didn't like my male partners or the male cops (one of whom was the most attractive man I think I have ever seen...but that's another story), but she really liked me. While we were waiting for EMS because she was given the choice of hospital or jail, it was quite the effort to keep her calm. She kept pleading with me to "get her away from 'them'", to which I simply replied that I was one of 'them' to. I felt so bad for her at the time, I wanted to know who she was and what had made her this way, I wanted to fix it all for her. I cried for her, she cast such a pathetic figure, so broken and lost.
Now I see things differently. I hope it is not my compassion fading or my empathy disappearing, but rather experience knocking back some of my naivete. I still feel for her, for all of my patients, but I am much more able to just put aside a call. I can come home from a crazy shift with all my calls swirling through my head, and pour them onto a sheet of paper. Then they are over, gone, through. I have not yet seen anything really terrible, so I still don't know how I would react to that, but I don't over-react to everything anymore. I don't lose sleep over a drunk woman with a bloody forehead, I realize that people make their own choices and there is nothing my tears can do about it. I still care, don't get me wrong, but I am now able to cope with how much I care.