Albert Einstein once incisively remarked that “Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think”. There is a subtle difference here between the traditional ideas of education and training which we pick up in our school years, and the true meaning of education and learning which we find in real life. And this subtle difference holds great weight and poignancy in emergency healthcare.
Very quickly, when we leave school and adult life and responsibility are dually thrust upon us, we realise the importance of adapting. We learn very quickly that life does not follow a script, and that the set things we have learned at school are not always 100% applicable to that scenario. Life and its many guerrilla-esque lessons, which seemingly spring up on us from nowhere, very quickly teach us that the most valuable lesson we can adopt is indeed how to learn in the first place. That we will never have all the answers to every possible scenario, as the array of possible scenarios that can hit at any one point is just too vast and uncertain.
The only thing we can do to prepare ourselves is to learn two things: how to learn quickly and how to think even quicker on the spot. How to take a core lesson, and to spontaneously adapt it to the situation lying on the ground in front of you.
Learning never stops and is about adapting to a situation in order to solve it. Here’s a problem, now give me a solution. Yes, it’s an incredibly similar problem to the one you encountered with that neonatal case last week, almost identical in fact, but it might not be the same. Are you going to give me the same solution? Thinking quickly and adapting, as I say. Using a mix of lessons and experience to grope your way along in the dark, fishing out details along the way, until you get to an understanding, and then a solution.
Yes, learning never really stops. Certainly, the more educated I get, the thicker I realise I am. Every new lesson reveals further pools of unexplored knowledge I never even knew existed. This shows me that, no matter how expert I get, there is always something more to learn. Someone who has been there and done it before me. Is their method outdated in my eyes? Maybe they haven’t heard the most recent study we were taught in class last week? Maybe the problem is that my understanding of learning is still too naïve, as the modern-day teachings and new discoveries can be mixed with more ‘old school’ approaches quite beautifully, often leading to a very balanced mix of high technical ability with exemplary shows of understanding and care.
There are many interesting articles in this edition of Ambulance Today, as usual. The overall focus has been on education and training, as well as a slight focus upon technology. I suppose, without quite realising it, I was going for a unifying theme of development in this respect. Either way, despite the amount of truly stimulating and thought-provoking articles in this edition, I feel that two in particular really embody what I am trying to say here.
Firstly, our South African correspondent, Mike Emmerich, gives an amazingly insightful discussion on the importance and nature of critical thinking. Here he observes—rather wisely in my opinion as I feel many innocently overlook this point on a day-to-day basis—that “for the lifelong learner, everyone has something of value to contribute, irrespective of what environment or years of experience are on the table”. And I haven’t been able to put it better than that in the past 600 words. You don’t know everything. Never can, no matter how deep your expertise. Other people know things you don’t. Never disregard an opportunity to learn something new.
Secondly, we have an article that I am highly excited to introduce you to. Academic and qualified EMT, Mark Weiner, delivers a piece which looks at what can be learned from the patient’s perspective. This is something which is constantly on the minds of EMS staff, or at least as much as realistically possible anyway. This job takes its toll on you, and you can’t all be flawlessly and consistently empathetic all of the time. Patience and empathy can dip a bit when you go from one truly traumatic call onto another where the person might be being a little bit overly sensitive to the situation, if I want to put it politely. Mark takes a look at what can happen when we are able to overcome this and remember that some people, hurtfully but truthfully, do not see a person trying to help but only see a badge and a uniform.
More so, he not only takes a look at what this means for you, for the public at large, and for society in general, but at how this can then be taken, used, and turned into something truly beautiful where both sides can learn something from each other. As I said. You never know everything. Some people know things you don’t. Never write off an opportunity to learn… even if it’s from the annoying patient shouting in your face. There’s always another perspective, always a cause behind the action, always a piece of information which can help you find a solution.
So, with that, this edition celebrates the many fruits which education and learning have to offer. I hope you thoroughly enjoy it and get as much as you can out of it. Milk it for every useful drop, in the name of education. Experience, learning, education—they are key to expertise and proficiency.