Healthcare is an emotional field, filled with ups and downs, and never with enough preparation for all of the unexpected challenges. Just like all of the other healthcare positions, there’s death and tears and desperation…but there are also many highs including births, CPR saves, getting someone the help he/she needs, and even the occasional 'thank you' from a patient’s family.
The book “Thriving in Healthcare: A Positive Approach to Reclaim Balance and Avoid Burnout in Your Busy Life” (by Gary R. Simonds, MD, MHCDS and WayneM Sotile, PhD), may not be specific to the EMS field, but many of the ideas and suggestions could make a difference to the daily burdens and responsibilities of a busy EMT or Paramedic. From responding to a call, which may very well be an unknown, to dropping the patient at a local ER, the life-and-death decisions that must be made are a heavy load for any human being and perceived failures can haunt a mind for years to come.
Celebrate the wins, journal the good outcomes, reward yourself for the CPR saves, remember the times someone said you did a good job, and celebrate each completed complex day. Take the time to discuss all the good things that happened on a call with the rest of your crew and remember to praise your fellow crew members on good decisions, thank the driver for a safe and prompt ride, and pat yourself on the back for a job well done. Don’t be embarrassed to compliment your fellow workers; it can be contagious and could start a positive trend where you work. If supervisors could begin each shift with atta-boys instead of rebukes it will also bolster each member’s stamina and positive outlook. Finding the good in every call can make work less of a drudgery and more of a life’s calling.
When you leave work at the end of your shift, LEAVE WORK. Communicate with your spouse and other family members, or friends both in and out of EMS, and enjoy non-EMS pursuits together. Take time to clear your mind of 911 calls and so many of the things you’ve seen in your workday. Don’t rely on alcohol, drugs, or forbidden relationships to escape — these are not healthy alternatives. While the extra money might be great, consider what you will gain and lose by working overtime on an extra shift before making a commitment. Remember that in order to care for others, without just going through the motions, you need to take care of yourself physically and emotionally. Practice self-care and self-compassion.
You probably got into your field because you enjoyed helping others, seriously the money earned in EMS is rarely the best inducement, but where do you want to be in 10 years, or even a year from now? Make a plan and see if the things you have now can lead to your ultimate goal, and if not, how can that be changed. Be flexible in your long-term plans; just like your latest ambulance call, things can change quickly. But while you are working towards long-term goals don’t forget to appreciate things you have now, both at work and in your personal life. Make time to spend with family now, before the children are grown or your spouse is gone; enjoy sports or other activities while you still have the stamina and desire; spend time making your home a place of welcome refuge; visit your parents before it’s too late; and take that romantic cruise or adventuresome trip while you are young enough to enjoy. Happiness, like compliments, can be contagious.