So I did. I got off the couch.
And proceeded to board a flight to Switzerland – and I must commend the pilot for one of the smoothest landings I have ever experienced. Very comfortable. As are swiss trains. And my friend’s spare bed where I stayed a night (thank you hpcpr!).
Why was I actually there? I had signed up for was an Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) course, at a small but great little Paramedic School near Lucerne. I had spoken at a conference there last year which left me a good impression, plus I knew one of the staff there…and thought to myself “wouldn’t it be great to get some clinical skills done in a different language, in a beautiful country?”
Now, having grown up speaking German, and lived in Germany for 17 years, I’m au fait with the lingo. But I a) haven’t lived there for 10 years now, and b) the swiss dialect is comparable to Scotsman having a raging throat infection whilst simultaneously suffering a stroke.
Needless to say, I had my work cut out for me.
The ACLS bit wasn’t too difficult. I had the handbook (in Hochdeutsch, equivalent to Oxford English), and most of the clinical stuff was (well needed) revision. But I still went home with a bit of a buzzing head after each of the two days. Listening to conversations, let alone instructions, in a tricky dialect does push you out of your comfort zone.
So – what do we learn from all of this? My take home message (literally, as I’m writing these lines on my way home from Gatwick Airport) is that getting myself out of my comfortable, well known and understood environment got me more than just an ACLS certificate. It got me a shift in a different ambulance service, it got me a relaxing holiday, it allowed me to catch up with friends…but most of all, it was a humbling experience. All my professional knowledge and expertise doesn’t count for much when you are (at times) desperately trying to understand what’s going on, and formulate a fitting response in a way that the others will understand.
Experiencing that humility every once in a while is vital. Not only as a paramedic, or a manager or a leader, but as a human.