Well-Being of the EMT

So..., your pager goes off....THERE'S A CALL!!! AND IT'S YOUR TURN TO DRIVE!!! You jump into the ambulance, heart just a-pounding, ready to go. There's a call!.....That's all you know. Sound familiar? Maybe not. Not if you're new to this. But, if you've been around for awhile.....You know what we're talking about. This is an accident looking for a place to happen. And if you, or one of your crew members, get hurt, not only will you serve no further purpose, but, you'll further tax the system. Not only will a second crew need to be mustered to handle your CALL, but a third crew will be needed to take care of you (or your partner.)

You haven't been real attentive to your health, diet, personal sanitation, etc, lately. Got a heck of a "cold." Fever, chills, sweating, coughing, sneezing. THERE'S A CALL!!! You gonna go? What kind of impression are you going to leave with the patient, when you sneeze in their face?

The Personal Health, Safety, and Well-Being of the EMT are critical to the proper functioning of any EMS System. This is a serious subject and we tend to give it the respect that it deserves on this page.

EMT deal

In addition to suggesting that you be more attentive to your personal health and well-being, we're going to introduce you to ways of recognizing possible hazards, and protecting yourself from them. And the whole thing starts with understanding that it is important to REMAIN CALM!!! It is our considered, collective opinion that disruptive emotional excitement is born of fear, and that fear is a product of ignorance. People (ordinary people) rarely fear what they "know." An element of discomfort (fear) is introduced when an individual is about to embark on an activity, or engage in an event, with which they are unfamiliar or, if they are uncertain of it's outcome. You have already taken the first step toward a calm, controlled response in an environment where those around you are falling apart. Your education, experience and dedication will equip you to deal with Horrifying Events, Death and Dying, the Critically Ill, and the Injury and Suffering of others, as well as protecting you from some of the "fallout" from such scenes. It is inevitable that at some point in your career, you will encounter a scene, or deal with a patient, that will affect you beyond your ability to cope. Most of the situations, with which we deal, are full of stress. When that stress becomes greater than our ability to cope, it's called "Critical Incident Stress." Critical Incident Stress Debriefing (CISD) is a "chat session," with individuals that know the stress that caused the problem, individuals that know the job and understand the problem, trained individuals that can help the EMT deal with the problem and move on.

(PERSONAL NOTE: About 20 years ago, while responding as a BLS search and rescue diver, to a local lake for a child who had been missing for about 2 hours, I was "lucky" enough to be the diver, out of four others, to recover the little boy, who was celebrating his 5th birthday that day. He had been underwater for well over an hour, from reports of when and where he had been seen last. The team removed him from the water, we worked (in shifts) on him at lakeside for about 20 minutes, while a four-wheel drive ambulance was moved into place. Resuscitation attempts continued at the hospital for about another 30 minutes, after CPR had been administered for the 20 minute ride to the hospital. Once the little boy's core temperature had been raised to an acceptable level, further resuscitation was withheld. The little boy died. My son was 6 years old at the time, and I remember that the only face that I could see, when we removed this little boy from the water, was the face of my son. I was the closest rescuer to him at the time and started CPR, had to stop.... was relieved by another team member.....went off in the woods....and lost lunch. About three weeks later, my now ex-wife, who is also an EMT, noticed a look on my face that has come to be called, "THE THOUSAND MILE STARE." She contacted the local CISD Team and one evening they knocked on my front door, took me back to our squad building, showed me a picture of the little boy, and sat patiently, while I cried for the next half hour. One week and two sessions later, I was able to stop crying, and we started talking. Two sessions after that, they asked if I was ready to get back in the water. I was. My purpose in relating this event is not a plea for sympathy, or a ploy for accolades. It is an attempt on my part, by relating a very personal event, to educate you, my reader. I was supposed to be a "big bad EMT, a man." I was reduced to a tear stained pathetic figure by an event. A Critical Incident event. And I was the one, during EMT class that swore "it would never happen to me." There was no shame associated with that pathetic tear stained figure, either from any member of the CISD Team or any member of my squad. I can talk about that event now, but, can you imagine the emotional damage that might have been done, had my ex-wife not been alert enough, smart enough, or caring enough to take action. If you've been affected, ask for help. If you notice someone else that has apparently been affected, offer help. If they refuse, and you're convinced that they've been affected, take action. We are a team, and we need to look out for each other.

Charlie Corby, Advisor, Emergency Medical Ed
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