“You did not cause the emergency your job is to make the best of it.” I can’t remember where I came across that whether it was said to me or I read it somewhere… Most times I have no problem accepting that and I think that it’s the best way to go about your job… We didn’t create this emergency, it was not my fault, I did the best that I could and no matter the situation as long as I know that I didn’t make it worse than the outcome is okay because I tried the best that I could.
When it comes to the field I hold my own pretty well emotionally of course everyone have those calls that bother them. I learned the hard way that it’s important to talk about them because it not only affects your life but it affects your work and your patients. It’s not fair to you, your friends/family, or your patients to have you be in anything but your best mental health.
After a particularly upsetting pediatric call when I first became an AEMT I had a hard time accepting the whole “I tried” or “it’s not my fault” thing mostly because my advanced skills were new… I was still learning on adults and getting my routine and feeling really comfortable doing them on my own without someone watching over my shoulder. I had nightmares about this call and it gave me a couple sleepless nights my own infant at home-made it a lot harder and it made me worry about him even more than what a new parent would worry about their first child.
Finally after playing the “I’m fine” card for a while I decided to give up on it and talked to someone. I spoke with my partner from the call, I spoke to my regular partner the net shift we had together after finally getting over my pride of being okay… And I talked to my Grandmother the one person I could go to for anything and was always there no matter what the circumstance. After talking to someone who was there, someone who could understand, and someone who had worked in a healthcare setting but didn’t really have the same experiences (she worked when she was younger in a Nursing Home) I felt a lot better. They made me realize that when I told myself I did everything I could I really did… And while I may have been able to do something differently at the time (in the heat of battle as one of my instructors used to say) I did what I thought was best gave it my best and so did my partner who thankfully was also an AEMT and it didn’t work out. Unfortunately I don’t think that anyone could have done anything to save that poor little girl but it didn’t make it any easier in the couple of weeks after…
So a few years later with a lot more experience as an EMT (having only been a Basic for two years before going ALS) and also as an ALS provider I feel much more comfortable when things don’t exactly turn out the way that we’d like. I know when it’s time to talk to someone, I know when something bothers me, and I know that I shouldn’t be ashamed to ask for help. Anyone can hold their feelings in, hide them, or pretend they don’t exist.. It takes a much braver person to face their feelings/fears and take steps to make them go away.
The reason I bring this up is a couple of weeks ago (writers block has been killing me) I was the second unit into the scene for a bad call involving twins that were way too premature. On this call happened to be a new observer (paid/volunteer agency) and an EMT student who has been a member for some time but still new. After the call when the EMTs and AEMTs were all visibly upset and of course concerned for the observers they maintained that they were fine they were okay it didn’t bother them.
I’m fairly experienced I’ve been involved in EMS for 7 years starting as a junior member, 2 years as a basic, 3 years now as an AEMT and doing Specialty Care Transport and even the NICU Transport team… This still bothered me… I had never seen a baby as small as the one that was delivered by EMS that night in the field it was big enough to look like a baby and have all the features but too little to be viable and it was upsetting to all of us on scene except those observers who apparently had some insane fortitude.
Personally if it really didn’t bother them I would be more concerned about that then it not. I don’t know anyone that is cold-hearted enough not to be affected by something that traumatic. I did eventually find out that they opened up more as time went on, and my partner that night even did speak with the brand new observer who as it turned out wasn’t as okay with it as she was when she sat down with myself, the crew, and one of the line officers.
Anyway, I guess the moral of the story and what I wanted to make sure everyone knows is that it’s okay to be upset. It’s okay to be bothered by things that we see every day in Emergency Services… Whether you’re an EMT, AEMT, Police Officer, Fireman, or even a Dispatcher who only talks to the people on the scene… You are human we feel emotions… sometimes we can’t handle them on our own. Reach out to someone your partner, your co-workers, a friend… or a professional. It’s not weakness… it’s being brave you’re facing your emotion and your fears. Trust me it’s better that way.
Oh and to my partner from that night I don’t know if you’ll read this or not… But I want you to know that I’m very proud of you and I’m glad that you were there in the back of the truck with me… Sometimes even our former students teach us things… But I guess being able to learn from your students or people who aren’t necessarily as experienced as you is another lesson.