Kathryn Marie Ellsworth submitted 2020-01-26

Imagine yourself, as a graduate student (in any field, but physical therapy in my case) out on your first clinical. You are learning the ropes, the ins and outs of the hospital, all of the small nuances that come with the nature of the career, and working incredibly hard to impress your clinical instructor with the information that you’ve studied so intently for the last 6 years. You walk into a patient’s room, suffering from legionnaires disease and on a ventilator because their lungs were no longer able to support their body independently. While attempting to sit them on the edge of the bed to improve their spine stabilizing muscles endurance, their blood pressure bottoms out, and a code blue must be called.

This is a situation I could have easily found myself in, and I often worried that it may have happen, as the patients that I helped ambulate in the Intensive Care Unit were very sick and often had unstable vitals such as low blood pressure and oxygen saturation. As a physical therapy student, we do a significant amount of heavy lifting, passive range of motion, and ambulation with our patients in the acute care setting. These swift and sometimes difficult movements can quickly throw off the patient’s vitals, potentially leading to a life-threatening situation. These are the situations we must be prepared for with BLS and CPR training.

CPR and BLS are seemingly simple acts, counting out compressions versus breaths at a 30:2 ratio and using an appropriate rhythm and depth of compressions to ensure the blood is pumping through the body and to the brain. In a state of emergency though, these simple acts become the difference between life and death. It is imperative for anyone working in healthcare to be well versed in these lifesaving acts because in an emergency there is no time for error or miscommunication.

I have mentally practiced and prepared for what I would do in these situations; thankfully I have never had to perform CPR or BLS on any of my patients, but I know several people in my life that have. My sister is a nurse and my best friend is a physician assist. Through their experiences I have learned how to prepare to potentially save someone’s life.

They have both described these moments as a flurry of emotion that cannot be disturbed by panic. As a healthcare professional you must be swift and prompt with action. The provider closest to the patient or person in need must take charge. They must check for the pulse and airway and as needed, begin the compressions and breaths. They also must know their own limits and direct those around them to be prepared to jump in as they fatigue. I have learned a great deal about emergency patient care from listening to the advice of those around me with more experience and far more knowledge. Although I don’t wish to ever be placed in such a situation where someone required CPR and BLS, I want to be the most prepared I can be to take life saving measures.

I feel incredibly blessed each day to have the ability to treat and improve the lives of others. Healthcare is not an easy workplace. It can be gruesome and stressful; fast paced and unrelenting. We choose to put ourselves in the position to take care of others before our own health. We lose sleep worrying about our patients, wondering what we can possibly do to improve their health and their life. Healthcare is a world of incredibly high pressure, but it is also a world incredibly high reward. Watching a patient’s health improve every day is what makes the field worth it. This field is so rewarding if you look beyond the stress and realize the miracles that occur every day. Healthcare is life changing and changing someone’s life can be as simple as being prepared with BLS and CPR training. That could be the difference between life or death, brain injury or a normal life.

Thus far in my short-lived physical therapy career, I have quickly learned that preparation makes all the difference in the world. Preparation for a test, for your first patient encounter, your first patient treatment and even your first emergent situation. Focus in your training classes. Practice the skill it takes to get an adequate compression so that blood continues to circulate to the brain. Be so confident in your skills that you are ready for any situation that is thrown at you. If you find yourself in a place where you could make the difference between life and death, be ready. Working in healthcare is a blessing filled with challenges and miracles and it is up to you to work hard, enjoy the ride and be prepared!