We went to the ER because this was the second time I'd sprained the same ankle this year, it hurt a lot, and I wanted an X-Ray to make sure there was no bone damage. And, of course, because it was after hours for doctor's offices or even the local "urgent care" clinic, which closes at six. Lovelace hospital ER was almost empty (our second stop after UNM, which handles all the region's Trauma cases and was mobbed), so they processed me through quickly. All the nurses and the doctor were amazed:
I had sprained my ankle, then iced it immediately for 20 minutes, taken 800 mg of Ibuprofen, then wrapped it with a light compression bandage before heading to the ER. Multiple caretakers complemented the wrap and said they wouldn't change it, though they didn't check how tight it was, just asked to make sure I had no numbness or tingling in my toes.
As one nurse put it, "You did everything perfect. NOBODY does that."
But what was strange to me was, while saying most people did not have the "common sense" to do these things, the nurses focused on the question of what I do for a living. When one nurse asked that, I told her I was a human factors engineer, then shortened that to engineer in response to the blank look on her face. When she clarified the question as to how I knew what to do, Brian commented that I have a history of previous ankle injuries (this is true; through soccer or dance when young or, later in life, simply by walking, I'd sprained each ankle three times previously, the other one badly enough to pull bone away from the joint), and that he was an eagle scout. I added that my father is a biomedical engineer, and he and I have both been first responders at accidents, so we've gotten First Aid training.
When we were leaving, the other nurse was also on her way out. "I heard you're a biomedical engineer," she said.
"I've done some biomedical engineering," I admitted, since it was true.
She nodded as though that explained it. "We were wondering. The way you had it iced and wrapped. Nobody does that. Nobody!" and she left.
In retrospect, though, while my biomedical background informs my understanding of physiology and injury, clearly my occupation ISN'T why I know how to treat a sprained ankle and have those supplies at home. I have that knowledge and equipment due to direct experience, education and a family culture of preparedness.
I updated my first aid training a few years ago via a course offered by the Red Cross.
What everyone else who comes in is missing isn't common sense, or a medically-focused occupation. It's experience and training. New Mexico, and ABQ in particular, are known to have poor educational systems and high drop-out rates, so I don't find this lack of education that surprising. What was surprising was how the nurses misattributed the reason why I knew better, even though we gave the one nurse better answers.
*shakes head* I don't know how education will improve in this country if people continue to fail to give it credit for the differences in how people react in given situations.