At the moment the dinning hall of the Wyss Wilderness Medicine Campus is brightly lit, filled with happy voices, punctuated with laughter, and the occasional beep from the microwave. Everyone is in different states of preparedness for the upcoming week, and overwhelmingly the impression is one of anticipation and excitement for whats to come. Along with bemusement of those who had to much to drink last night and made a fool of themselves. It’s interesting to sit here in the middle of active conversation and socialization and intentionally isolate myself with headphones and an open laptop. Quietly observing the body language of my peers, imagining their current state of mind.
Two weeks of focused study later and I am honestly feeling ready to go home. As much as I enjoy the company of these fine people I have to say that there is no replacement for those people we have selected to be our family. And likewise creating a healthy routine becomes almost impossible when your utmost dedication is required to a single task. I’ve spent the better part of 11-13 hours a day focused on the study of emergency medicine and as a result have let other aspects of my life lapse. While I am able to recognize this as a necessary evil in the pursuit of larger long term goals, it is still frustrating to not be able to feel satiated emotionally, artistically, physically. Perhaps the single hardest thing for me is not having the time to be on open trails with dirt and rock under my feet.
This leads me to perhaps one of the more valuable lessons I’ve learned here; I require a lifestyle in which balance is made and then maintained. Actively participating in my own imbalance is a strange and surreal process. To recognize the solution and yet to not be able to fix it in pursuit of something else is quite frustrating. Do we call that sacrifice or masochism? Does it matter? Isn’t it all just complaining anyway? But maybe not? I have to say there has not been a single moment here that I have no enjoyed, and yet if I could I would do things differently. Maybe its just recognizing preferences.
My preferences are for the open and star lit skies which ring with cold. Strong coffee that is balanced firmly in sun browned hands and sipped by dirty faces. Rough rock that absorbs the stress of powerful ethics and the commitment to better days. Tenacious friendships that pick up always where they left off and scoff at hardships. My preferences are for exactly what I’m doing and appreciating it for what it is, recognizing that these moments are the only ones like them that I will ever get. By embracing these few seconds and seeing them for what they are; my preferences are for brightly lit dining halls, filled with happy voices, punctuated with laughter, and the occasional beep from the microwave.
It’s a cold morning. The kind of cold morning where the color of the sky seems to match the temperature of the air. But it is a crisp fall cold, not yet the over bearing oppressive cold of winter. The west sky is covered in dark gray clouds, but further east streaks of gold and pink are bursting over the horizon. Breaking over the hills, the light blue of the early morning sky only serves to further highlight the simple fact that the sun is on its way. As color returns to earth and shapes become more than obscure objects in twilight, so seemingly does the warmth of day. As the dawn continues its march through the morning night scales back its forces allowing for the brief and momentary victory of a new day.
Well here we are in the middle of a new week! Having gone through eight days of heavy course work and vigorous skills training I have to admit I’m starting to get a little worried. Things are just moving quickly. The amount of practice that is needed in order to gain competency at some of these skills is considerable, while the amount of reading and comprehension needed to pass exams and operate appropriately in the field is also demanding. Practice tests as well and understanding vocabulary have become my primary studying functions and I have foregone the complete reading of chapters. This is ultimately more unnerving than I think it is ineffective, but I guess time will tell.
The practical scenarios are finally starting to become more involved and complex which is really pretty fun. Having to think quickly on your feet about how to handle certain situations and respond to different kinds of medical emergencies is a great and invigorating exercise. The ability to recall certain principles of treatment when faced with a bloody chest wound or a non-responsive patient becomes way more of a challenge. However, I have found that for the most part I am more than capable of remaining calm and continuing to provide non-emotionally charged care.
This became particularly clear to me over the weekend whilst working in the Riverton ER. I spent Friday night from 3pm to 11pm taking patient vitals and helping to clean rooms for the nurses. These tasks placed me in direct communications with patients some of whom where having incredibly difficult days. I have to say that having the expectations and real world consequences of patient care hanging over me, I still felt wonderful calm and un-phased.
There still much to be learned and many mistakes to be made but for now, I’m feeling good, feeling confident. I’m excited about the prospect of making those mistakes and having the chance to make a difference in someone’s life as the product of my learning here and now.
I’m sitting in “Yellow Right,” the name, if you will, of the cabin where you will be staying for the next month. You’ve been talking to William, the first person you met while, unloading your car, speaking about the anticipation of the course. You’re slowly starting to realize the vast amount of work ahead of you and the amount of energy it will take to do well here. I know you’re very worried about getting your anatomical definitions dialed in, as well as understanding and remembering basic medical terminology. I guess I could say don’t worry, but hell, I don’t know maybe you should! I want you to enjoy this month, I want you to push yourself to do as well as possible academically, and most of all to really focus on doing something you love.
When you’re done think about why you took this course. Think about what made you come up here. See if those reasons still hold true. Or over the course of your education, where you disillusioned to anything? What judgments had you made that turned out to be false surprised you? What things that you assumed turned out to be true?
The place is amazing, the red rock bluffs that surround the campus have captured your heart already, reminding you of southern Utah. The area itself is very much so like Flagstaff or Prescott, Arizona, high juniper desert environment. Junipers and red soil rule the landscape. The fresh snow on the campus stands in beautiful contrast to the bright blue of the skies, and the deep red of the rock.
So far you’ve met just about a quarter of the folks who will soon arrive. Get stoked James, the next 26 days are gonna be amazing. Maybe I’ll say hello again later tonight after you’ve had orientation and dinner. Mainly dinner. You’re hungry as shit.