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February 14, 2010 / jeffmedic

Teachable Moments

It’s Valentine’s Day Eve and I am working a 24 hour shift at my part-time job.  Thankfully we have the kind of shift so far that has allowed me to catch up on my movies and email.  I am also working on resurrecting the advanced provider society of my state EMS association, but that is a story for another day.

I am watching the recently released Star Trek and I would like to share a thought that came to me the first time I saw the film in the theater.  In EMS we often speak of teachable moments.  These are moments that we have with patients or their families during or shortly after an incident.  Occasionally it is appropriate to point out how they might have prevented a 911 call by using the knowledge that we give them during the teachable moment.  The key to success here is sensing when it is appropriate to share and when it is better to talk about something else.  This requires people reading and judgement.

Close to the beginning of Star Trek, a young James T. Kirk tries to chat up a lovely young cadet named Uhura.  Some of her confederates from the Academy intervene and a bar fight ensues.  Kirk ends up getting his butt kicked but is saved by Captain Pike.  After the crowd is dispersed, Captain Pike gathers some information on the rowdy local and senses that there is a teachable moment.

Kirk’s father was killed in action with Star Fleet many years before and Kirk has grown up as a adventurous under-achiever.  Pike uses his recently gained knowledge of young Kirk and his research into the battle that took the elder Kirk’s life to establish a connection with the young man.  They have a short conversation that does not go very well.  As he stands to leave, Captain Pike tries one more time to reach his young friend.  His challenge is my favorite part of the movie.  He says, “Your father was the captain of a starship for twelve minutes.  He saved 800 lives, included your mother and you.  I dare you to do better.”  The rest is Star Trek history.

I hope that if I am ever placed in the same position with a young member of the EMS profession, I will be able to recognize or create a similar teachable moment and be able to issue a challenge that leads to someone reaching his or her potential.  I have learned over my short career that ability is not always enough, sometimes we have to have a reason.


Leave a Comment
  1. Amanda / Feb 18 2010 9:00 pm

    So true. thanks for sharing

  2. Margaret / Mar 18 2010 7:03 pm

    I forgot that! Good line though – it gave me chills thinking how you could change so many people’s lives by turning around one misguided underachiever.

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