by Scott Gunderson
A police officer spoke at my son’s Cub Scout meeting. The boys were captivated by his uniform, his gear, and the command presence of his voice. They were unusually quiet and attentive.
He told the boys that what we do and what we say sends a message to people. He compared actions and words to tossing pebbles into a pond. The pebbles send ripples across the surface. What you do matters, he said.
Sometimes you see these ripples, the effects of your actions and words. Sometimes you do not see them. Sometimes they surprise you.
“Medical emergency in the CNC bay.”
The radio announcement pulled my attention from my computer screen. I was at my desk at a private sector gig managing a factory safety and emergency response program.
My training exercises with my factory responders emphasized wise use of time during the early stages of an emergency. I listened for the radio communications following the first announcement to land on all the critical elements: scene secured and verified safe, responders with patient, EMS notified, and responders on the way to likely EMS arrival locations such as reception.
The door closest to the scene was not far from my office. I volunteered over the radio to go there to escort EMS inside.
I heard the sirens before I saw the ambulance. When I saw it cross the gate and enter the parking lot, I waved at the driver with one arm and pointed at the door with the other. The ambulance parked near me. The EMTs stepped out, and one of them, a young woman, briefly spoke to me.
“You were my BLS instructor.”
Her comment barely registered with me at the time. I was in the mental space of transitioning care from my responders to EMS. I walked them through the door to the scene, where they began their assessment of our employee, eventually transporting him to the hospital. He was able to return to work in a few days. I never saw her again.
Ripples across the surface of a pond.
I remembered years earlier when I was a young exchange student in Germany listening to one of my professors, a German veteran of WWII. Captured early during the war, he was shipped to a POW camp in Texas. One of his American guards told the young German prisoners that his son was a POW in Germany. The guard said his son’s letters described relatively good treatment in Germany given the hardships of war, and for this reason the guard wanted to do the same.
What you do matters.
You were my BLS instructor.
The young woman must have been a student in one of the monitored classes I had recently taught at a local ambulance provider to maintain my instructor certification. For me the monitored class was a formality, something necessary to continue training my responders. They were the center of my attention, and I did not think much about any wider circles drawn further around them and our factory. But one of these circles touched someone else, and I was surprised and humbled to realize I had trained someone working in the community. Someone saving lives in the community. I hoped she found value in my training.
I did not think of my next monitored class as a formality. I presented the information to the room full of strangers with the same level of engagement as if they were my own responders. I trained like it mattered.
Because it does.
Be well. Practice big medicine.