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First patient in clinicals dies

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Three days ago I had my first clinical experience. The first patient of the day was a transfer to a nearby hospital. I didnt learn anything from it except I hate transfers. We were just pulling back into the ambulance station and we got dispatched to a house fire. You could hear in the 911 operators voice that it was no joke. Turns out, there was a 4 year old boy in the house. We got there and the smoke was just pouring out of the windows and even standing 40 feet away it was very hot. We didn't know that there was a child in the house until a firefighter started frantically yelling for a medic as he emerged from the flames. The paramedics I was with grabbed the boy and took off running for the ambulance. They were joined by two other medics and the boy was rushed to the hospital. He was in PEA and one medic administered cpr while another was giving him Epi via IO and another medic suctioned his airway and intimated him. There was nothing for me to do except grab things from bags and cabinets when they were needed. When he got to the ER I couldn't really understand what was going on. Everyone was gathered around him talking over each other. When he went 7 more minutes without a pulse they called it. Not a single person in that room left with dry eyes. I walked out to see both of the paramedics I was with crying. My mom (a nurse in the ER) looked at me from across the room, and I just broke down. I'm having a really hard time dealing with this. I can't stop thinking about him, his family, the paramedics I was with. I've been trying to spend time with family and friends to take my mind off it but it's so hard. I'm not sleeping well and I've completely lost my appetite. I'm only really eat so my parents don't worry. It's so hard for me because everyone in my life is just going about business as usuall and I'm sitting here feeling like this and I just don't know how to deal. Does it ever get better? Or will I always have him in the back of my mind? I'm supposed to start a fire recruit program in a few weeks but I'm starting to question if I'm cut out for EMS. I handled the situation well while it was happening. And one paramedic said that they were impressed with how cool and collected I was especially considering it was my first patient. I don't feel so cool and collected anymore. 

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First and foremost, that's awful...not only a job like that but that you were exposed to it as a student (I'm assuming?) Once the adrenaline wears off is usually when the emotions hits. Everyone is different and it can take some time to find a coping mechanism that works for you, however, having to deal with  this sort of case on a clinical placement is just shit. I don't think there is a better adjective to describe it.  

I would be following up with your program coordinator to arrange support or someone to talk to, again, assuming you're a student. Just remember cases like this are the exception and its normal to feel the way you do, just make sure you get some support.

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I'm so sorry you're going through this.

First of all you need to talk to someone. One of your instructors or the paramedics you were with so you understand what happened and try to process it.

As far as getting better, I don't think it gets better but you learn to deal with the deaths better. Most of my patients don't haunt me, but I remember them. I do have a few that haunt me a little. 

The way you feel now is how I still am after 10+ years of doing this. I handle the call itself well but after it is over and I go home it takes me a bit to settle my nerves, that's ok. 

As far as knowing if you're cut out for EMS that's a very personal decision that only you can make. I'm pretty sure that if I could grasp how hard it can be when I started I would have looked elsewhere. However, there are also some really awesome things we get to do to. I've delivered a baby in the ambulance and not much beats watching new life enter the world. I've had the priveledge of holding the hands of small children all the way to senior citizens and giving them my support. I've provided pain control for people who needed it. I've been a voice for people who didn't have one. I promise there are good times too.

There are people here who are much more experienced than I am who will offer better advice. Stick around here. 

Good luck to you with whatever you decide.

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What a SHIT call to be on as a student, but unfortunately those calls are sometimes the ones that we get put on.  

I echo everything that was said but you need to get to your instructor and explain what call you were on.  I'm sure it's on the news and I'm sure that your instructor knows you were on that call.  they should already be reaching out to you to help you deal with this.  If they don't know you were on the call you need to tell them.  

They have resources for you to get with to help you through this as you in your post are listing out a lot of depressive descriptions and if you don't get some help it can spiral down. 

Are you cut out for this business?  I can't answer that but if you weren't feeling the way you are feeling and you asked me that question I would scream out "GET THE HELL AWAY from patients" as your lack of feelings disturbs me but you don't have that vibe so I'm going to go with yes you are cut out for this business simply because you are expressing sorrow, sadness and being human.  Some of the best humans I know are the best medics I know.  

But your first job is your mental health and brother/sister you need to talk to someone.  If your EMS program won't provide it, then it SUCKS big donkey balls and then it's up to you to find it else where.  the next step would be to return to the EMS agency you rode with that night and talk to them and tell them exactly what you wrote in this forum.  Let them know how affected you were on this call.  

OPENNESS Is key here.  

My first day in EMS as a EMT was a horrible day, had an adult code/trauma code and a pedi code in one 24 hour shift.  I nearly left the station at end of shift and never came back.  But I did and no shift was ever as bad as that and I did not ask for nor receive any help and now I'm as f'd up as any 20 year veteran, but not because of that day.  But seriously, we have Code Green, we have other programs out there for just such a situation as yours.  

they are all available for you but they only open up to you if you ask for them to be given to you.  You took the first step here, but you must take the first step in your world.  

I wish you good luck.  We are always here but nothing takes the place of face to face.  

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Thank you for everyone who responded. I'm new to the site and wasn't really sure what to expect. Just to clear up a few things, I'm out of class already. We finished the program and we're doing clinicals after. My instructor said we had to call him if anyone died while we were doing clinicals, so I've talked to him already and told him what happened. At the time though, it hadn't hit me yet and I was doing fine. So I told my instructor that. The paramedic who was in charge of the situation (the paramedic I was assigned to) he was really upset about it and I'm worried if I talk to him about it it'll upset him even more. My teacher checked in on me several times that day and each time I told him that I was fine. I'd feel really weird texting him several days after and saying that I wasn't okay. 


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Your teacher should know and understand that it often takes days if not weeks for this type of feeling to manifest itself.  Sounds like your Teacher is a proactive kind of guy.  He sounds like he wants to tackle these types of things head on and you NEED to call him.  He will understand.  If he's worth his teaching credentials, I'll bet he already has services lined up for these types of situations and they are just waiting to be used.  

You need to take advantage of that.  

To be blunt, we see the worst of the worst and you need to have a support system that you can count on and that you can trust.  This is a first step to develop that system.  Get the help you need.  I know to many EMS Providers and law enforcement providers who have "Eaten the wrong end of the gun" so to speak because they said they were fine.  Not saying you are there but it grows and grows until you are overwhelmed.  the sooner you get help and talk to someone the better and quicker they can provide you with coping mechanisms that will serve you throughout your career in EMS and beyond.  


Trust me.  I know.  

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