Even though you and your co-workers are in the same field, every provider has different experiences, and different memories, some of which may haunt you.
“In my early years of riding, we got called to a brutal homicide of several family members and attempted suicide of the killer. Every emergency responder was crying at the scene. Afterward, the local PD invited our crews to attend CISD sessions. It was helpful.” When an agency arranges for professionals to offer counseling, and when that professional understands what the responders have experienced, it does help.
“There was the night we got called to a heart attack. When we arrived, we found the “patient” on the toilet passing gas!” In a panic, family members may accidentally imagine a worst-case scenario… sometimes they just want the ambulance to get there faster.
EMS is an INCREDIBLY stressful job. That exhilaration rush when you hear the tones go off raises your blood pressure, and if you don’t find a way to relax, it can lead to permanent hypertension and cardiac problems of your own. It’s also difficult to think calmly and logically if your pulse is racing. Taking the time to BREATH, taking a few deep and slow breaths, can be calming.
“I rode with a squad that covered an area near where I lived. We got dispatched to a motorcycle accident, a bad one. We loaded the patient up. While we were enroute to the hospital the patient died, and the medic asked us to check his wallet for an ID. We were shocked to find we knew him and never even recognized him.”
Every provider has different experiences, but every provider should be able to talk with other providers who understand. Sometimes the culture of a specific squad may not be conducive to talking about your feelings after a call (even without violating HIPPA); if you worry about being ridiculed, you’ll probably just “clam up” and keep it to yourself. If management is not supportive and if you fear judgment or penalties for being human, then you’ll probably put on a happy face and try to hide your angst.
“We were running all night, and twice we didn’t even make it back to base before being dispatched on our next call. Finally, at ten minutes to the end of our shift, we got called out to a house fire where firefighters were injured.”
If your agency is understaffed and expects its members to show up after last-minute calls, then it needs to work on better recruitment and employee retention. Long, unrelenting shifts with no breaks, no food, and no rest, can take their toll. Getting home exhausted and later than expected can seriously limit family/friends’ time when members might unwind. And these interruptions can only be damaging to home life.
There is a high incidence of alcoholism, substance abuse, hypertension, home-life disruptions, and even suicide in Emergency Medical Response. If you feel that you are succumbing to the pressures, don’t be afraid to get help. NYS Mental Health offers resources for First Responders, check out their website at https://www.health.ny.gov/professionals/ems/mental_health.htm
Stay healthy and be there for those who need your help.