Amy Narkis submitted 2017-08-08

Basic Life Support is certainly an essential component to any health professional’s education. As a radiology student, I was required to take BLS, which is a good thing, since the lack of CPR or BLS training has always left me with a certain naked feeling; what should I do if someone were to suddenly collapse, and I’d be the only one around? Since I have always been concerned about my deficiency in this skill, it was with great relief that I enrolled in and took my first BLS class.

When the four hours of instruction had passed, I felt in no way ready to tackle the next random stranger to faint on the sidewalk. We had covered so much in so little time, and I, being a perfectionist at heart, was uncomfortable with the small amount of information I had received. Yes, the instructor had demonstrated the correct way to deliver compressions, and then observed us doing them, but I craved exact instructions, with ways to measure placement, methods of determining whether the depth was correct, and other specific confinements of BLS to an exact science. I was not satisfied with “Oh, yes, that’s probably close enough, but you’ll probably end up breaking something anyway.”

It took a while for me to realize that my attitude was the wrong way to go about it. The dummies we practiced on were of uniform size, with inert rubber bodies and distinctly male characteristics. When breath was administered, it always took the same force to inflate their chests. It was while I was thinking of these things that it finally dawned on me; what if the patient I am x-raying goes into cardiac arrest, and is not a male but a female? What if he or she is obese? Suppose it is an elderly gentleman with smoker’s lung or a young woman with a heavy chest? A taller-than-average basketball player would require different spacing than a petite patient, and would also probably have larger lungs and need greater force to adequately inflate them.

This taught me to approach a situation like this in a different manner. Instead of trying to impose BLS as an exact, formulaic science on the fluid, individual situations, I realized that I must change my view. It was instead an education to prepare my reflexes for tackling a difficult situation. Technical training is, of course, important, but its purpose is not to prepare me for every eventuality. It is there as a framework for me to build upon. I need only focus on saving the patient, not applying a complex series of steps that might trip me up in the very process of running through them. It is this knowledge that allows me maximum mental preparation.

It is also a well-timed lesson that I learned; every patient will arrive in differing mental conditions, body physiques, ages, and beliefs. This will be either an obstacle that cannot be overcome, or a challenge to be faced and surmounted. It is imperative that health professionals learn to take the second view; formulaic predictability may be found in math careers, but the expectation of it in the healthcare field can only lead to disaster.

Another component of the class which was more implicit than explicit was the need to be physically fit at all times. Merely working on mannequins for a few minutes left me with aching wrists and tired arms. It is simple to take a break if need be in class, but when someone’s life is at stake, there can be no rest, and it is imperative that your ministrations stay strong and regular. It has instilled in me a new resolve to stay physically fit in order to be always ready for every circumstance. I would be just as ‘naked’ with the skill as without it if I wasn’t able to render effectual aid because of bodily inadequacies.

These preparations sum up the very core of existence for healthcare professionals; our first, last, and main duty is to our patients. We must hold ourselves in readiness to be always there for them; the defeat of cancer, though slower, saves a person’s life just as surely as on-the-spot CPR does. All workers in the healthcare field have this first obligation, and should constantly remind themselves of the importance of what they are doing. It’s easy to fall into the trap of treating their job like any others’: getting in a comfortable routine, cutting corners, and not bringing their best to work everyday. And it is here that everything that can be learned from BLS comes in: healthcare professionals must always be fully equipped physically and be mentally open to varied circumstances in order to succeed in giving their patients optimum care.