What to Expect–First Precepting Shift

I’m a little frustrated right now.  I left my whole June schedule open, didn’t plan anything at all so I can get my precepting shifts done.  Unfortuantely, and like many in my class, I wasn’t assigned any shifts AT ALL for June.  I figured, okay, I can’t get any shifts, so how about I ride third instead to gain some experience while I wait.  I’ve met some amazing paramedics over the last year or so and some of them were more than happy to take me on.  But as luck will have it, many of them are also preceptors, and recently I got an email saying they have students for all of June.  Seems like I’m running out of options of what to do…Looking at it from another perspective, I guess I should be happy because there’s nothing for me to do except have fun out in the sun (if the sun would come out)!

Okay, enough on my rant, moving on…

Yesterday, I had a friend ask me what he should expect on his first precepting shift/orientation shift, or if I have any advice for him.  I thought that was a good question so decided to write a post related to that.

So the following are my ten thoughts and opinions on what you should expect and be expected of you on your first shift:  

#1  Don’t expect too much or hype yourself up too much.  This is like winning a lotto ticket and every day is different, it could be a busy day with many interesting calls, or it could be a busy day with the “usual” calls, or it could be just a plain darn old slow day.  Be eager to learn, but let things come as they will so you won’t be disappointed if it didn’t turn out to be what you expect.

#2  Be respectful and polite.  When you first get to the station (get there early, I usually go ~30min before shift change), tell whoever answers the door who you are and why you’re there.  Ask if your preceptor is already at the station and introduce yourself to your preceptor and the other paramedics at the station.

#3 Show initiative.  If your preceptor isn’t there and his partner isn’t there, don’t go straight to the couch and sit down, put your feet on the table, watch tv or flip open a newspaper.  Ask the other crews who are there which car you’ll be working out of, and ask if you can do a car check.  If yes, then go ahead and do that, if no then that’s okay too.  Sit down and wait for your preceptor to show up, and if the crew there is interested, talk to them and learn where they’re from, how they started etc.;  Just don’t sit around like you own the place, you’re there to learn.

#4  Bring a lock.  Sometimes they’ll have extra lockers and you’ll be able to keep your belongings there.

#5  Pre-trip check/cleaning.  This relates to showing initiative.  If your preceptor is there, ask him/her if you can check the ambulance out;  If your preceptor is not there, but the crew members there say you can, go outside and take a look at the ambulance.  This is what I usually do before a call:  Take the Accel TB wipes, and wipe down the whole interior of the ambulance, all the places you would touch (handle bars, cabinets, chairs, O2 tanks, etc) including the driver’s seat (steering wheels etc), and the attendant’s seat; Not only would your preceptors appreciate that, but you’ll also feel a lot better sitting in the back of the car knowing it’s clean.  While doing the wipe down, take a look at what needs to be restocked and restock the car.  Familiarize yourself with where the equipment is kept, each car is a little different (don’t forget to open the bench seat, often that is where the sager splint, pillow splint, bed pan, etc are found.  Also take a look at the jump kit (I usually also quickly wipe the exterior of it down as well with Accel wipes), know what’s in there and where, also make sure that’s stocked as well (be mindful that some paramedics use their own kits).  Don’t forget to return the jump kit back into the ambulance!  The last thing you want is to go to a call without a jump kit, I’m sure your preceptor would not be impressed either.

#6  Bring a small bag.  Often times if you’re in the city, it’s so busy you won’t have time to go back to the station to grab your lunch.  So pack your lunch in a small bag, along with some quick healthy snacks (unless you want to go for fast food, which isn’t healthy in the long run).  You can place your small bag behind the attendent or driver’s seat where it is relatively clean unlike the patient compartment.  You can also place an extra warm jacket there as well in case of a change in weather.

#7  Get to know your preceptor.  If you have time before the phone rings (aka get a call), see if you can sit down with your preceptor and have a nice little chat.  Get to know each other.  Find out what s/he expects from you and what you expect, your concerns, how the day is going to run, who’s going to run the first calls, whether you can observe a couple of calls first, and any questions you have, etc.

#8  Be Confident.  When running a call, just run it the way you’ve been taught.  If you don’t know what’s going on, that’s okay, go with the PAM (Pt Assessment Model), do your best, and try.  Trust that your preceptor has your back, after all, the ultimate responsibility of the patient falls under your preceptor’s license.

#9  Be open.  Everybody has a different personality, and sometimes the preceptor’s personality may not match yours or there could be other factors that may cause friction.  That’s okay.  Take everything in, pick and choose what works for you and what doesn’t, be open to feedback.  At the end of the day it’s you who gets to decide what type of paramedic you want to be and how you like to approach your patient.  Like the saying goes, there is more than one way to skin a cat.  As for learning, you’re always learning, whether it is learning what to do, or what not to do.

#10  Bring a good attitude.  Ask lots of questions, be inquisitive, show initiative and be eager to learn and try new things.  Most of all, have fun!

Hopefully this post has answered some of your questions and anxiety/excitement in regards to your first day.  Sleep well the night before, enjoy, have fun, drink lots of coffee and stay safe 🙂


11 thoughts on “What to Expect–First Precepting Shift

  1. After having read almost all of your posts in the last day and a half, I must say thanks. While BC is not Ontario and we have different knowledge backgrounds, I feel like reading many of your posts have helped me relax enough to feel mildly confident going into my first rideout. I’ve never done first aid/first responder and have never been in an ambulance so my nerves have been getting the best of me.

    Here’s hoping this 12 he over night shift does well and thanks again!

    1. You’re welcome :). My nerves were pounding on my first ride-along when I only had standard first aid. But I had a lot of fun. Hopefully you get to see some neat things on your night shift, feel free to share how it goes 🙂

      1. Ah. Sitting at base for my second night shift and contemplating everything that happened yesterday. It was incredibly slow (2 calls in 12 hours) however I got to see respiratory arrest and how quick it can change with proper care.

        Still nervous about the next few months but I found my nerves were more out of fear of being wrong/not knowing something they feel I should know. Which as preceptors go, mine is great at understanding and explaining.

        I can’t believe how helpful your post was and also how quickly my nerves died down upon just getting inside.

      2. Sounds great! That’s a pretty good first day, you got an interesting call in there :). As paramedics always say, Curse ofthe Third. And it appears to be true most of the time, whenever we have a student on car, the day is super slow lol. But things will change!

        Have fun on the rest of your shifts!

      1. My son lives in Livermore area and can’t find a preceptor to take him on. He is willing to travel. He’s completed his EMT and like many others, such as yourself, still waiting for that opportunity to finish up his hours. Any advice?

      2. Hi Linda,

        Unfortunately I live in BC, Canada so I won’t be of much help. I’m guessing you’ll just have to wait till a preceptor frees up to finish his hours. Generally that is how it works.

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