Lauren Holleyman submitted 2017-08-08

There are a variety of different reasons as to why people decide to go into healthcare careers. At the fundamental level, those seeking these careers most often do so simply for the reason that they want to help people. Not only do they wish to help people— they wish to save lives.

Although I am not yet in medical school, I am somewhat practiced, as a pre-medicine student, in the skills required for basic life support. One thing I know to be true about life support is that not only is this knowledge accessible, but it should be accessed by the general public. During my most recent CPR training, my instructor told the class that most everyone who actually is in a situation where CPR is necessary, is very frightened and anxious about their capabilities, and most will decide to forgo administrating basic life support, even though they are certified. My instructor added that in most every case, the attempt to perform CPR alone gives exponentially more hope for a better outcome than not performing it at all. Upon hearing this information, I realized just how important the knowledge of these techniques is, even for a pre-medicine student who has yet to attend medical school.

As a physician, I will need to be prepared both mentally and physically before performing life saving techniques on patients. With any learned skill, the rule is that practice makes perfect, and medical treatment is no exception. In my career, I will make it a habit to mentally run through the procedures involved in life support. The more I repeat the steps to life support techniques, the easier they will be for me to recall them in a life-threatening situation. Along with this technique, I will create emergency scenarios in my head and picture a patient in distress. The point of this is to bring my mind to a place of anxiety so that I may practice controlling my fears and visualize working under pressure in a calm manner. Something that I found very useful in one of my psychology courses was the practice of self-care, which is vital in preventing burnout for those working in the healthcare field. My professor promoted the idea of visualization to reduce future anxiety, and reminded students of the importance of taking care of one’s mental state, which is often overlooked in those who are preoccupied with taking care of others. Another way to prepare mentally for performing life saving techniques is to engage in conversation with others who have been in emergency situations and performed life support, to gain insight as to how they handled the situation and what they learned from it. In doing this, I can hopefully avoid mistakes made by other care providers and repeat success stories.

Physical preparation is equally as important as mental preparation in the world of life-saving. The most obvious way to physically practice life support is the use of dummies. They provide a zero-threat environment to practice the hands-on skills for CPR, AED use, and other rescue techniques. One technique for honing life support skills is by performing drills, in which a dummy plays the role as the distressed patient, and the situation is treated as if there were a real-life emergency. This takes the mental preparation of running through emergency scenarios and pairs it with the physical act of performing the life saving techniques necessary for any given emergency scenario. This way, when I am in a situation where one of my patient needs my assistance due to cardiac arrest or another emergency, my muscle memory along with my life support steps will be rehearsed and ready to go.

Emergency situations are filled with abundant stress and anxiety, and the best way to deal with this inevitability is through proper preparation. It is important for me to not only prepare for life support situations, but to also refresh and update my knowledge on the latest techniques that are standardized. As research provides more knowledge of the best approaches at performing life support, the standards and protocols for certain procedures are likely to change and evolve for the better. It is my duty as a responsible medical student and future physician to stay up-to-date on these standards and protocols. Coming out on the other side of an emergency situation with a saved patient is the best possible outcome in an emergency, and it is one of the most rewarding feelings that humans can know. For this reason, I aspire to not only become a physician, but a responsible, practiced physician. I will strive each day to become the physician that I would want treating me if I were a patient in an emergency.