Tomorrow will be my last day working as a Paramedic at the Tri-Valley Fire Department. With fall colors in full display and temperatures dipping precipitously towards freezing, the last of the hearty tourists are filtering to points south. In a few weeks, Denali National Park will all but close down for the season. The last four months have seen my first real, paying, full-time work as a Paramedic. Despite a rocky start, I found my stride and can hardly believe I will pack up my uniforms & trauma shears and head off to the next bizarre adventure tomorrow afternoon. (And yes, this sleepy small town fire department proved itself perfectly capable of producing the bizarre.)
I took this job because a mentor-of-sorts told me that working a summer at Tri-Valley is what inspired her to become a Paramedic, and was where she returned to cut her teeth as a new medic as soon as she earned her badge. It was also the only opportunity I had been offered, after hounding after every opportunity I could find for a year, where I could work in Alaska, cut my own teeth on an ambulance as lead, and not have to run into burning buildings as a side-line. I gave up working as a Wildland Fire Medic to spend my summer indoors at a fire station, and although I missed the smoke, safety-naps, bears, cubbie baths, fresh-food box steak-nights, campfire coffee (ok, maybe not) & endless blister mitigation, I don't regret spending my summer on the road system in a real bed (well, maybe a little bit ... but you get my point.)
The lessons learned here in the mountains have been various and have as much to do with life (and especially Very Small Town Life) as with medicine. Any delusions I had about living in the idyllic world of a tiny rural community have been thoroughly and permanently debunked. Working alongside the PAs at the Canyon Clinic has been the best part of the summer, and has solidified my resolve to pursue that end ... eventually. The confidence I have gained in my abilities as a medic and as a fledgling lead are already invaluable, and will hopefully soften my landing on Monday.
Next up is temporary remote-site medic work in Western Alaska. I have already compiled a two-foot-tall stack of reading material to keep me from imploding, and in light of redoubled warnings regarding unprecedented boredom I am considering an attempt to redeem the debacle I made of knitting back in '05. In the mean time, I'm watching termination dust work its way down the mountains around Healy and trying not to think about the future encroaching from just beyond this season's snow.