From Fighting Forest Fires to Working Clinicals: Michael Scott’s Story

When entering a burning building, remember that the hose is your lifeline. Crawl while advancing hand-on-hand or else you could twist the hose and get lost. When Chief says get out, you get out because the building could be about to collapse.

Such as some of the memories of nursing student Michael Scott’s time as a firefighter in New Hampshire. The job brought a mix of excitement and pressure, all of which helped Scott in his journey to studying nursing at BYU.

Starting first as a volunteer firefighter in high school, Scott realized how much he enjoyed the team atmosphere and the inherent service to the community that the job entailed. Each week offered plenty of opportunities to get the adrenaline flowing while responding to a variety of calls.

“I loved it,” he says. “I think it depends on your personality. I liked getting woken up in the middle of the night, and it was exciting to head to the scene or head to the engine.”

Scott became a certified firefighter and dedicated the next five years to the profession. The lifestyle was one in which everything could change in the blink of an eye.

“I’m not sure what a normal day would be because all calls are so different,” he says. “We were trained to be able to get all of our gear on in a minute. It was fun. You were really relaxed one minute, and the next minute you were sprinting, putting your clothes on, and heading out.”

Not everything was exactly what he had pictured.

“When I joined, I’d always pictured fires,” he says. “But most of the calls I got were for motor vehicle collisions and suicides.”

Scott found that he liked responding to many of the medical emergencies; he soon became certified as a firefighter EMT and worked closely with injured victims.

“The medical calls required a little bit more of me in general; I couldn’t just be in autopilot,” he says. “I actually liked that—I liked going to those calls and doing my best to help out and to make the people there feel important.”

As much as he enjoyed working as an EMT, something continued to trouble him.

“One of the things I noticed is that we would have repeat patients for cardiac arrest and other issues that are fixed by education, but as EMTs we don’t get to do that,” he says. “I’d always go home and I wished that I’d had a little bit more time to try to help that patient.”

During his EMT training, he had watched nurses in a local hospital. The nurses’ ability to help patients make productive health decisions and analyze their lifestyles affected him deeply.

“That’s what I really felt like saved the patient,” he says. “[EMTs] brought them back, but a lot of those patients just died later just because they didn’t make changes they needed to make. The things that the nurses would teach them those made a real difference. I liked that.”

Wanting to be more involved in helping patients prevent future health problems, Scott decided to study healthcare at BYU, eventually gravitating to nursing.

One thing he enjoys about BYU’s atmosphere is the Gospel-oriented atmosphere, particularly in the Nursing College.

On a few occasions at the firehouse, coworkers ribbed Scott for holding to his standards. He remembers that shortly thereafter the team responded to a devastating car accident in which a teenager had been thrown through the windshield. Scott had worked to stabilize the youth’s head, which was bent at an unnatural angel.

The team tried to load the teen on a backboard, but he adamantly refused to be strapped down. Realizing the extreme danger that the teenager was in, Scott tried explaining to him that even though his movement would be limited, the restraints would keep him from becoming permanently paralyzed. In that moment, he had some important realizations that influenced why he came to BYU.

“In healthcare and in eternity, living within certain restrictions can mean we trade a few moments of restraint for a lifetime of mobility,” he says. “The Brigham Young University nursing program includes principles for eternity in caring for people in a mortal state.”

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Fast forward to the present. Scott is a successful student and a proud father. As a student nurse, he is learning the skills that he saw nurses use to help patients back in New Hampshire, and he is excited to make a difference in the lives of others.

“The most traumatic part of being an EMT was when we weren’t able to save someone and having family watching and basically trying to figure out if we’re going to be able to save their family member,” he says. “As a nurse, I’ll have the opportunity to intervene a lot of times before that point. I’ll be able to decrease the number of goodbyes that family members have to make to their loved ones.”

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