I’m currently taking the 2-week CCEMTP course in the USA. That stands for Critical Care Emergency Medical Transport Program. It’s a big title for a big jump in knowledge and skill. In these 90 or so hours of training, I’ll be absorbing about 30 credits worth of nursing and medical school classes. It’s pretty intense and, at times, overwhelming. Other schools in the USA offer this course as a twice-a-week series over a few months. Since I’ve been flown in from the Middle East and can’t take 3 months for training, I’m in on the “super-intense-you’re-going-to-fail-and-your-brain-is-going-to-explode” version of CCEMTP. It’s made up of 10-hour classroom days followed by 4-5 hours of studying at night, 6 days per week.

Suffice it to say, I’m a little tense right now. I’m remembering some of the stress-induced dreams I had when I was in paramedic school. I might be having more of them as I go along. I told someone today that I’m convinced that I know nothing and, when I go back to work, every patient I touch will die instantly.

We were told that to maximize our chances of passing, we should form study groups. I’ve made one with a few folks I’d like to introduce. Again, I’ll stick to my convention of naming them with pseudonyms. They read my blog so I apologize if I offend.

First up is “Cap’n D.” He’s a certified airline pilot, experienced paramedic, law school student, emergency room technician and one of the nicest, most engaging people you could ever meet. He has the gift of telling good story and he’s ten times smarter than I could ever hope to be. I gain a +3 IQ bonus whenever I’m within 10 feet of him. When he enters a room, everyone notices. He’s charismatic and handsome and looks everyone in the eye. He has a way of making you feel comfortable and, while he’s one of the most interesting people ever, he engages with everyone he meets as if they are the most fascinating person in the world.

When you first see “JJ” with her blond hair, nice tan and deep brown eyes, you might think she’s the party girl you’d have died to meet when you were in college. I think that’s why most people she meets underestimate her from the get-go. JJ has been riding fire trucks and ambulances as a volunteer since she was in high school. She got a job as a Firefighter/Paramedic immediately after she graduated. She’s tough, experienced and has an intuitive, automatic understanding of all thing paramedical. She’s also rides fire trucks like a boss. She keeps us from getting too full of ourselves. Whenever we have a tough time getting our heads around some particularly tricky concept, she seems to find a simple, clear and insightful way to describe it. She claims she doesn’t know much and she’s never afraid to ask questions. Her questions often teach us more than anything we’ve read in a textbook.

The “Evil Mastermind” (“EM” for short) is the least outgoing of our group. He doesn’t speak up much and has a bit of social awkwardness that can be off-putting or charming, depending on how well you know him. When he does speak up, he’s spot-on. His quiet demeanor belies an agile and undeniable intelligence and a vast wealth of knowledge. He’s comfortable to be quiet, I suspect, because he doesn’t feel a need to prove he’s the smartest guy in the room (Which he is). He got his RN (Registered Nurse) but still works as a paramedic. As I get to know him, I suspect he did that for the academic exercise. I call him the “Evil Mastermind” because (and I told him this) he’s so goddamn smart that if he ever decided to go bad, he’s totally be a super-villain.

We’ve studied together, challenged each other’s knowledge, relied on each other’s experience and are becoming friends. Last night at dinner, we set aside our notes and took turns telling the “how me met” stories about our spouses or partners. That was the most fun I’ve had in a long time.

This is the cadre of misfits I’ve assembled as my study group. We won’t be together long but we’ll pack months of experience into these two weeks. As we go along, we are discovering that we genuinely like each other. I’m still pretty stressed out about this test and how little I really know about medicine but, because of my misfit friends, I think I can see the light.