There comes a time when every EMT student needs to complete a ride-along as part of their clinical experience. For most students, this is typically their first exposure to the EMS system and therefore a critical step in the learning process. If you’re an EMS professional, you certainly know how these shifts can be either very rewarding or a complete nightmare! With that being said, we’ve developed a guide to help prepare EMT students for ride-alongs and hopefully ensure a positive experience for everyone. To keep it simple, we’ve come up with the “Three P’s” system: punctual, professional and prepared.
You should show up to your scheduled shift at least 30 minutes early to become familiar with your surroundings and ensure the crew has enough time give a tour of the ambulance or fire engine. Showing up early lets the crew know you’re a responsible, dedicated and motivated student. On the other hand, if you’re late to your shift this can be interpreted as you don’t take the career seriously and the crew members might be reluctant to teach or include you on any patient care. Keep in mind you might be applying for a position with this agency once you’ve finished school. It’s extremely important you set a good example to show how important this career is to you. If for whatever reason you won’t make it on time, call your class instructor immediately so he/she can contact the agency. It is also equally important to leave on time as well. For instance, don’t hang around after your shift ends since the agency is only responsible for you during the scheduled time.
Being professional can mean many things, but in this case, let’s focus on your appearance and attitude.
- Black boots or sneakers
- Navy blue pants
- Black belt
- Plain, white Polo shirt (no logos and tucked in)
- Do not wear make-up, jewelry or hats
- Men should have a clean shave and women should wear their hair up
- Your attitude is everything and it’s important to remember you’re there to learn through hands-on experience. Don’t be shy or reluctant to make patient contact when instructed to do so. This is a critical time in your training where you’ll start to learn how to interact with patients and apply some of the technical skills you learned in school.
- Stay positive. The crew members know you’re a student and don’t have much practical experience. If you have a good crew, you should receive a lot of feedback on how you’re doing.
- Be a sponge. Your number one goal should be to learn as much as possible. Ask a lot of questions and take initiative by asking if you can assist or help out.
- Remember, you are a guest so act like one. Do not engage in jokes, use your cell phone or handle equipment without permission. Be respectful and make sure you thank everyone for their time at the end of the shift.
The ride-along is designed to give you an opportunity to practice your skills in a real-life setting. It’s extremely important you have a strong working knowledge of your practical skills, local protocols, medications and dosages, normal vital signs for infants, children and adults, etc. It’s not uncommon for crew members to quiz you on your knowledge, so make sure you’ve studied and have a good understanding of what you’ve learned so far. Depending on how busy it is, you might have some downtime. It’s a good idea to bring your textbook or notes so you can study during this time. Also, the shifts can be long so bring a lunch and some snacks to ensure you have enough energy for the day. If you don’t want to pack a lunch then make sure you bring cash. Often times, crew members have some favorite spots they like to eat and the business might not accept credit or debit cards.