Entwining Experiences

A few years ago, I started training to become an EMT. Around the same time, I started attending judge conferences. I had been a first aid instructor in college, and I realized I could bring these same skills to the judge program. Starting at GP Toronto in 2012, and with the help of the inestimable Rene Villeneuve, I began presenting on this topic at conferences.

My seminar was usually listed on the schedule as “Handling Medical Emergencies.” When actually presenting, however, I used a different title: “How to Save Lives and Judge Magic.” While my talk was primarily about addressing injuries you might encounter judging events, I also had a lot to say about how becoming an EMT had made me a better judge.

As it turns out, some of the fundamental functions of an EMT are taking control of stressful situations, asking the right questions to correctly identify the problem, and following the proper procedure to fix the issues you discover. Even if you’re not an EMT, that description should sound familiar: I could just as easily describe judging in this way.

Studying to become an EMT is a very rigorous process. Although some details about EMT protocols vary based on where you’re operating, there is a national standard for EMT certification exams. The rubric for these exams is very straightforward: on your practical examinations, once you determine what kind of situation you’ve found yourself in, you’re expected to execute a specific checklist of tasks and assessments, almost robotically.

One advantage of this style of evaluation is that it makes it very easy to know what you’ve done correctly or incorrectly, which is obviously critical when dealing with life-or-death situations. A rather critical disadvantage is that the test does not really evaluate your bedside manner or general rapport with your patient.

The judge program, on the other hand, approaches feedback and advancement in a more holistic manner, and I came to more greatly appreciate the virtue of this approach by comparing them with my experiences as an EMT. While the exams for the various judge levels are cut-and-dry, testing a candidate’s rules and policy knowledge is only one portion of the advancement process. The L2 advancement procedures, for example, specifically call out personal qualities like “willingness to mentor and certify other judges.” When I test someone for L2, sometimes I evaluate these qualities by asking questions during an interview; but for other candidates, I may have already seen them directly demonstrate these qualities through other interactions. These sorts of interactions would never be relevant for an EMT exam, which is only concerned with what you demonstrate in the exam room at that particular experience.

Comparing and contrasting these different styles of education and advancement, as well as the typical methods for handling judge calls or medical emergencies, was a very illuminating experience. I realized that, rather than considering my training as an EMT to be something totally separate from the rest of my life, I could integrate those skills into my work as a judge. For example, EMTs are very adept at taking command of a tough situation and directing other people to execute well-defined tasks. When faced with a stressful or urgent situation as a judge (like a catastrophic WER crash, or quickly getting other judges’ attention), I draw upon those same skills from my EMT training.

While my training as a judge definitely helped me become a better EMT, advancing as a judge helped me also become a better EMT. A major example is that I’ve been able to use my experience in performing investigations to devise good questions and search for collateral truths that will help me identify medical issues.

More broadly, I believe that judges can learn something useful from virtually every career or profession, and vice versa. I don’t know if this concept already has a name, but I’ve started calling it “entwining.” While my own experiences with entwining come from my own background as an EMT, that’s just one example. I’ve seen entwining make a positive in other judges’ lives as well, such as one judge learning a great deal about customer service by working at a big box retail store, and another become a more effective manager for his software company through Head Judging large events.

What are your own experiences with entwining? What was the last thing you felt that you did particularly well at event, but that no judge taught you how to do? What was the last time that you applied some skill or knowledge from the judge program to your job or professional life? Let me know in the comments!

One thought on “Entwining Experiences

  1. I’ve had very recent thoughts along the same lines. I very much like the concept of entwining. I don’t want to share more here yet, as I’m still shaping my ideas on the topic. There is an aspect of my life (not professional) that I feel I can steal a number of ideas from and use in either a series of articles or for some type of a seminar on the topic.

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