My preceptor this past year (let's call him Matt) was an incredible guy, exactly the type of preceptor I wanted and needed. He's an inspiring guy, not even thirty, and is already a critical care paramedic. His intelligence and drive for knowledge and further education made me even more passionate about this field, and made me want to learn more, train harder and be a better paramedic.
The most striking thing I learned from him, however, was nothing clinical, nothing that the textbooks discuss. He called them 'soft skills', and I have come to see that they are just as important, and in many cases, even more important than the clinical interventions we got drilled through in school. I never saw him get angry or lose his patience with a patient, family member or co-worker. A gentlemen to the core with little old ladies, a soothing touch to injured children and a listening ear to those suffering from addiction problems. As kind hearted as he always was though, he never, ever sacrificed our safety or stood down from a confrontation. I hope that I can show the same gentle strength that he does on a daily basis.
I remember one incident where we got called to a car accident on the highway on a cold, snowy evening. Arriving on scene, we found a woman and her child in their small car that had been struck by an out-of-control vehicle and spun into the retaining wall. The baby was perfectly fine, safe and secure in his care seat, while his Mom had a broken ankle. She didn't want the stretcher, and with our help, hopped gingerly over to our ambulance. When we arrived at the hospital, our partner, being a new dad, eagerly took the baby, while Matt and I helped her down the side stairs to the wheelchair we had grabbed for her. She was in more pain now, and hopping was clearly more painful. Instead of making her hop down, Matt reached up and lifted her down, placing her gently in the wheelchair. The look of relief and gratitude on the woman's face spoke volumes, a simple action, but one that drastically reduced her pain. Once inside, he willingly handed over his cell phone so she could call her husband in the U.S., she could not thank him enough.
Very simple actions, but ones that made me realize that he is the sort of paramedic that I want to be. The woman was not a critical patient by any means, and we really didn't do any "paramedic" skills for her, what he did was alleviate her pain and provide reassurance to her family. It made a world of difference for her, and really hammered home how important compassion and empathy are as a paramedic.