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Amy Palma: Not Your Average Night Shift Scribe

Some call me crazy, but not because of how I act. As I walk into my night shift in the Emergency Department, I am always asked if I worked during the day. Your average night shifter would sleep during the day to prepare for work. I’m not that average. I work crazy hours and my schedule is very hectic so my answer is usually yes. Most days, I work up to 20 hours between two jobs. I currently work as a Medical Scribe in the ED during the overnight shift and as a Veterinary Technician during the day. I also volunteer as a certified EMT during my free time.

I have enjoyed volunteered my time to my community since I was in high school. I was interested in becoming an EMT during that time as well, but I didn’t have the courage to actually apply myself. It wasn’t until the winter following Hurricane Sandy that I decided to pursue my dreams. I felt as if I should be helping those who were in need. I was introduced to the EMT field by a friend, and started gaining this invaluable experience. I rode on calls, assisted when needed, and became trained to drive the ambulances. I enjoyed volunteering and helping people when they needed it the most.

There was one point during my EMT training where I thought about giving up and that was when I experienced my first code, which ended up also being my first pediatric code. The patient didn’t make it and I took a break from volunteering. I wondered if I really wanted to endure this constant threat of tragedy, but I eventually decided to face my fears over losing another patient and proceeded to further my experience with the help of support from my fellow first responders. I went through the EMT course at the same hospital that I am currently scribing at now. It wasn’t until I was doing my clinical hours, that I became curious of something else; becoming a medical scribe.

Before I stepped foot into the hospital, I had no idea what a medical scribe was, or what they did. After my first day of clinical training, I research everything there was to know about scribes and emailed the Chief Scribe every month until they finally hired me. As a brand new EMT, I became intrigued about what occurred after we would drop off a patient and transfer care. My knowledge grew and I learned many things that I applied while working as an EMT.

Working in the ED as a medical scribe and being a certified EMT for the past 5 years has allowed me to experience many things. Although I work closely with humans every day, I have a soft spot for animals, which led me to becoming a Veterinary Technician. My medical experience with humans as well as my knowledge of medical documentation have helped me greatly to obtain a position in the veterinary field. I have been very fortunate to learn and grow at both jobs, and as a volunteer.

Whether you are dealing with humans or with animals, loss is loss. When a patient comes in unresponsive and the doctor or veterinarian does everything in his or her power to save the patient with no success, it takes a toll on everyone involved. Although healthcare is a profession that some may deem stressful or depressing, saving a patient’s life makes all the hard work worthwhile and this is why I enjoy what I do. I delight in helping people and animals, while also giving back to my community.

So how does one work two full time jobs while also volunteering in their community? It is not easy, but I make it work. I make it a goal to stay above water, to ask for help when I need it, and to sleep whenever possible. At one point, I was also attending school, which made my life even more hectic. Although my jobs differ in description, I can apply my skills to both of them and they each teach me new things,

Working as an EMT is always a team effort and I am forever thankful for learning from those who became EMT’s before me. They have taught me things they cannot teach you in a classroom setting. They have become family who you can lean on during the hard times you experience as a first responder. Although there have been hard times, there have also been good times. It is always refreshing to hear a patient or a client say “Thank You” for helping them in their time of need. It makes giving back to your community even more rewarding.