Ever wondered how your required college composition courses will benefit you once you’re in the “real world”? Ever wondered how important reading and writing skills are to artists and visual designers, nurses, mapmakers, or creative directors at ad firms? I’ve started this series, Real Talk, to give professionals in a variety of industries a chance to share why reading and writing are so critical to what they do.
Today, we’re profiling Bob Schneider, who recently retired after spending three decades in fire service.
Describe your career.
I spent 30 years in the Fire Service: three years as a fire safety inspector for Rockwell International, 12 years as a Firefighter Paramedic for the City of Arcadia, and 16 years as a Firefighter Paramedic for the Orange County Fire Authority. I was fortunate to work in the private sector, a member of a small department; Arcadia has three fire stations, and then a large department. Orange County has over 75 fire stations.
What kind of reading and writing did you do on an everyday basis?
All employees of the OCFA have a daily briefing binder that they are responsible to read and implement. These briefings cover anything from general administration announcements to changes in policies and procedures.
Significant portions of annual mandatory training are now presented online with testing at the end to enable certification and documentation of course completion.
What kinds of reading and writing skills are key in this type of career?
The ability to read, comprehend and implement new information and skills is vitally important. Ongoing training is a way of life in the fire service as techniques and tactics change and improve over time with experience and analysis. Although most physical evolutions are learned through manipulation, most advances in tactics are changes in thought patterns and strategies. These can be presented through the above mentioned briefing to all members and easily implemented daily.
My skill as a writer was necessary primarily in writing reports as a paramedic. Initial findings and treatment in the field need to be accurately and succinctly reported. Continuing treatment for patients requiring transport to a hospital are based on effectiveness of care. A change in patient status as a result of treatments requires a detailed written report of the patient’s condition on arrival. Emergency room personnel are frequently very busy and have no time for reports that are poorly written or don’t cover critical information they will use to improve patient outcomes. The reports generated on calls become a part of the patient’s chart and are usable in court. Therefore a thorough understanding of appropriate treatments and actions that are well documented are critical not only for good patient care, but also protects responding units from needless legal battles.
Why are these skills important to being successful in your work?
Success as a paramedic requires good communication skills. Being able to read and implement training documents is critical to being an effective team member in emergency situations. As I mentioned earlier, the OCFA has over 75 stations. It is essential that all members are working toward emergency mitigation using the most current techniques. The fire service is well known for having a crazy work schedule. Although personnel are assigned crews that we work with most of the time, on any given shift we could be working with members we have never met before in an extremely dangerous and difficult environment. It is imperative that everyone is on the same page.
Some of my most enjoyable calls have been with elderly patients. There are a significant number of individuals I have contacted that have fascinating life stories. War veterans and successful business people I have treated and enjoyed visiting with. I’m a voracious reader. I was usually working on two books at once, one at home and one at work during free time. The perspective and understanding this has given me visiting with these individuals has delighted them at times and enriched my experience as a first responder.
On numerous occasions I have used my reports as reference to answer questions regarding treatments and outcomes in legal matters, and have been thankful in those situations that I had them to refer to.
What advice do you have for students, particularly college students in first- and second-year writing courses?
Enjoy yourself! Enjoy the process of improving your writing and your ability to communicate.
Never stop reading and appreciating differences in style and technique.