Alum Dane Larson started his nursing education in 2020 with a rare perspective few can parallel.
Not only did he already have a decade’s worth of emergency care experience, but he also knew what it was like to be a high-priority trauma patient – twice.
Firsthand experience launches career
The first time, Larson was 18 years old and in the wrong place at the wrong time when strangers attacked him.
“It was super random and it was very scary,” Larson said. “I ended up getting stabbed.”
But as he rode by ambulance to the hospital, Larson wasn’t panicky or hysterical. Instead, his fascination with the emergency care around him launched his career as an emergency medical technician (EMT).
When he wasn’t crewing an ambulance in the San Francisco Bay Area, Larson spent much of his free time in his twenties exploring Yosemite National Park. An experienced rock climber, he used his climbing gear in 2018 to ascend a tree in order to trim branches.
“At the time, I had no idea that many people who professionally cut trees get injured,” he said. “Trees are gnarly.”
Thirty-five feet in the air, Larson trimmed a branch that promptly sheared off the very one on which he sat. He fell.
An illuminating perspective
Larson didn’t have the insight of his EMT career behind him during his first hospital stay. But the days he spent lying on a gurney the second time “one-thousand percent” impacted his practice as a healthcare provider.
“There are some things that I think we just can’t have a perspective on until you’re the patient,” Larson said.
“Would I change my experience in that whole setting?” he asks. “Absolutely not. I’m so glad that I went through all of that because it greatly informed my ability to put myself in the shoes of a patient.”
Larson didn’t plan these circumstances, but he learned from them. And although he planned to learn while at the School of Nursing, some benefits of his education would be unexpected, too.
Pleasantly surprised by what you know
During summer and winter semester breaks, Larson crewed an ambulance in Oakland, California. He repeatedly found himself in situations where the amount of knowledge he had on a topic was obviously greater than it used to be.
“The progression of learning with regard to clinical care insidiously snuck up on me,” he said. “I was the same person doing the same job, with the same scope of practice as an EMT, but the people I was working with were like ‘Whoa, I didn’t know that!’”
Their reactions took him by surprise; then the realization of how much he actually knew sunk in.
“I was able to understand the condition and the situation so much more than I had before, and that was noticeable only in the moment,” Larson said.
The benefits of continuing his healthcare education beyond his career and life experiences became tangible in front of his eyes.
“The more we know in the healthcare setting, the better able we are to get a person to the care that they need,” Larson said. “That’s really rewarding.”