Bridging the gap between theory and practice was the message that an exceptional flight paramedic and native Mississippian brought to a class of medical professionals in Grenada.
Charlie Swearingen, who lost both legs below the knee as a child due to an illness, and who has since accomplished a stellar medical career and played on the U.S. Men’s Sitting Volleyball Team, spoke to students Friday at the Elizabeth Jones Library.
Swearingen was born in Biloxi and earned his bachelor’s degree from Millsaps College. He currently works for a hospital in Oklahoma City.
“Too often we get the didactic explanation of things without actually putting that into practice,” said Swearingen.
Intubating a patient, or putting a plastic tube down their throat to help the breathe, is one procedure Swearingen highlighted.
Swearingen’s presentation on arterial blood gas interpretations was the capstone to a week of classes offered by HEART of Mississippi, or Health Education Advancement, Research and Training.
HEART is a Grenada-based 501(c)(3) non-profit that uses the collaborative efforts educational and health care professionals to provide to excellence in health care.
“The class I teach is essentially to help nurses and paramedics prepare for critical care nursing exams,” said Swearingen.
That means he was helping the students make cognitive associations, learn test-taking skills and help them harmonize book learning with practical experience.
Bryan Slade, executive director of HEART, said that the kind of skills in which his organization specializes, and which Swearingen taught, are much needed in health care.
“I think we have in mind, first and foremost, the well-being of patients,” said Slade. “As a corollary to that, we want to provide the most thorough, practical and medically sophisticated knowledge and skills possible to advance the careers of medical professionals.”
Student Kevin Arnold said he learned a lot about aggressively checking to see if a patient has an open airway.
“It’s very basic, no air way, no patient,” they tell us in school, said Arnold, who works with Rural Metro Emergency Service in DeSoto County.
“We learned a lot about acidosis, or when the body has too high an acid content, and alkalosis, when the body is too short on acid, and the consequences of both,” said Arnold.
“We also learned about cardiac issues,” said Arnold. “The cardiac system has electronic stages, and if there’s a deviation in that stage, we leaned to aggressively hunt for the cause.”
To learn more about HEART of Mississippi, visit them on Facebook.