The Elk City EMS academy paramedic graduation class stood at the front of the room looking out at their families and friends who watched as each of them was recognized in turn for their achievements over the last two years. The program was an Associates Degree program that culminated in the students testing for the National Registry Paramedic (NRP) certification. That certification, coupled with the passing of the Maryland State EMS protocols test, made them a licensed paramedic.
Proud New Paramedic
Dean Flynn had worked hard alongside his classmates with that one goal in mind. He stood a little apart from the others in the group. He had always wanted to be the best, not just good, but the best paramedic in the academy. That drive had put some distance between himself and his classmates as he expected the same drive to be the best from them, too. Most of them considered him aloof at best.
Dean had always wanted to be a paramedic. Ever since his own tumultuous ride in the back of an ambulance following a car accident at sixteen, he’d known this was what he wanted to do. He’d watched from the ambulance’s front passenger seat as his girlfriend’s life was saved by a quick thinking, fast acting paramedic, working his magic in the back of an ambulance speeding to the trauma center. Now all the hard work, the long hours studying, the working alongside real paramedics with street smarts was about to pay off.
Dean had heard that the top of each class got to pick their first assignment in the city. He’d thought long and hard about where he wanted to be. There was Station 1, located in the center of downtown. He’d get his share of high energy calls, with shootings, stabbings and other exciting trauma calls to keep him busy between the boring medical runs for the diabetics and asthma patients. He’d given some thought some about picking one of the two stations near I-95 where it went through town. They got some pretty terrific car accidents there which would test his skills and problem solving abilities as he tried to extricate the victims from the twisted wreckage.
He was sure of one thing. He didn’t want one of the outlying stations in suburban areas, where they were working on implementing some community paramedic and integrated health programs. These paramedics made house calls and didn’t even get to transport most of their patients to the hospital. He’d done his rotations there and learned the importance of helping patients with chronic disease and minor problems stay out of the hospital. He knew that these stations were part of the new healthcare reform that was shifting high health care costs to the savings of prevention, but where was the fun in that? There was no glory in helping a diabetic patient keep his blood sugar even from day to day, was there?
Waiting for the Paramedic Assignment
Dean wandered around, making small talk with the few people who would talk with him. He filled up his cup with some more punch from the refreshment table as he watched his primary instructor, Mike Farver move around the room with a collection of big manilla envelopes, talking to each of the students in turn and handing them one. Dean knew that in each was their final scores, the badge they had earned to pin to their uniforms. The one that said paramedic on it. The envelope also contained their new uniform patches and, most importantly, their new assignments and the name of their preceptor at the new stations. It was a formality in his case since everyone knew he’d picked Station 1 by now and the top of the class always got their pick of assignment.
Mike was taking his time getting to Dean, though. He’d passed by and said hi when he first started handing out the envelopes but since then, the older paramedic instructor had not come over in Jerry’s direction. People and their families were starting to leave as the assignments were handed out, shaking hands or hugging each other before they left, wishing each other luck on their first days on the job next week.
At this point, Dean had pretty much figured he was going to the be the last one who found out where he got assigned and he was ok with that. Everyone else had people here to congratulate them and most were going out with family to congratulatory dinners and such. While he considered himself friendly with his classmates, he’d never gotten close with any of them and he didn’t have anyone here to celebrate with anyway. The reception had pretty much wound down by the time Mike came over to Dean with the final manilla envelope. The deputy chief had left long ago, along with all of the other invited dignitaries. The catering crew was starting to clean up the tables and mess.
“Took you long enough.” Dean said with a smile as Mike made his way over to him with his assignment. “I would have thought that I would get to go first.”
Mike stepped over and shook his hand. “‘The last shall be first and the first shall be last,’ my friend,” he said smiling. “I wanted to have a few words with you in relative privacy before you got your assignment. You’ve been the brightest of my students in a long time, Dean. You’ve studied the hardest. You have a good handle on skills and you’re one of the best intuitive problem solvers I’ve ever seen. I want you to know that it’s been a pleasure teaching and watching you grow into a fine paramedic these past few years.”
He handed Dean the envelope. Dean could feel the extra bulk as he took it. The badge and patch were pushing the envelope out in places. Mike continued, “I just wanted you to know that as you head off to this first assignment, you got picked for it because you’re one of the best to come through the academy in a while.” Mike put his hand on Jerry’s shoulder. “This is not what you expected, Dean, but it suits your unique skills and talents. Remember to keep an open mind and stay safe out there. You’ve definitely got the skills to do this job the way it needs to be done.” And then he shook Jerry’s hand again and walked away, grabbing his uniform coat and heading out the door to the parking lot.
Well that was weird, Dean thought as he flipped the metal tabs on the manilla envelope and lifted up the flap to look inside. He reached in and slid out a stack of papers along with his patch and badge balanced on top. He sat down at one of the round tables as the caterers continued to cleanup around him, looking briefly at the silver badge that said paramedic on it. The patch looked a little different than expected which was weird. He thought all the Elk City paramedic patches were the same. It said EMS-U at the top, had a star of life in the middle and Paramedic at the bottom. There was a certificate of completion. His diploma for an associates degree in applied science as a paramedic was in there along with another white sealed envelope with the Elk City letterhead on it. He quickly opened this one, tearing open the sealed flap with his finger, careful to avoid a paper cut, and pulled out the paper inside. He unfolded it and read the letter.
“Dean Flynn, congratulations on your achievement and graduation from the city college paramedic program. This is your letter of acceptance to employment as a paramedic for Elk City and pending the receipt of your state paramedic license, will act as your proof of licensure. Please report on Monday morning June 2 to Station U …”
“Station U?” Dean muttered under his breath, his shoulders sagging a bit with disappointment. “Where the hell is station U?”