From a volunteer, patient care technician and nursing student learning BLS, and now an Emergency Department RN, I have realized how BLS and ACLS are staples in healthcare. Learning BLS early on, and realizing that it could be used in every day life made me feel empowered. I felt like I could take on an emergency, and be of use. I nannied 3 young girls while in nursing school, and I felt prepared to help them if a freak accident occurred, which thankfully never did. However, when I stepped into the acute care arena in the hospital, I realized that BLS is a building block to what can ultimately be utilized to save someone’s life in an emergency. ACLS was intimidating to me initially, adding on the extra steps of advanced airways, lines, and medications. However, once I was able to utilize and apply it in real life scenarios, I began to memorize it. Eventually I was able to keep track of times during codes, notifying the team of the next medication due time and pulse check. Next, I was able to participate in the codes and assist with obtaining lines, administering medications and operating the defibrillator. Luckily now, we have the Lucas device that performs compressions for us. This was another empowering moment for me, and I realized I overcame all of the prior intimidation of ACLS protocol.
Now, not only am I an Emergency Department RN, but also a Nurse Practitioner student. So, my perspective will once again have to change from the bedside nurse to the provider. However, BLS and ACLS protocol will not change even though my role will. My first advice to students is to be open to change. BLS and ACLS change every few years, and has changed many times since I first started volunteering in 2011. Change is good, it means that medicine is advancing and that the latest changes reflect the best evidence that can be used to save someone’s life in an emergency. Being open to change is a mindset and a way to prepare mentally to perform such measures on a patient. I have been in many roles, and seen the aspects of an emergency from different perspectives and having this mindset has allowed me to continue to reach for success. Second, be a good communicator and team player. Whether it begins in your personal life and carries over to your professional life or vice versa, you will not regret facilitating good communication and being a part of a great team. I have learned that if I continue to reflect these values, my coworkers and peers begin to display these values as well. There will always be someone who doesn’t, but your success will surely out measure theirs. These values apply to BLS and ACLS protocols as well. Communicating exactly what you are doing, whether it is counting your compressions aloud, stating the medication you are giving aloud, or delineating roles, it will help the patient to have a better outcome. Embracing the value of being a team player will allow you to care for your coworkers’ other patients while they are coding a patient, commending your coworkers for their hard work, and thanking everyone for their efforts despite the outcome. Always remember the reason you are there that day, to take care of someone else’s loved one and potentially save their life. I consistently practice empathy and place myself in the shoes of the patient or their family members to gain perspective on the situation and to allow myself to practice patients and best practices.
Now, being a student again, I am not starting over my journey, but am building upon the knowledge that I already have. By doing so, I am allowing myself to collectively take all of my experiences and certifications and channel them into the care of a patient. When the team is brainstorming during a code, using the “H’s and T’s” as to what could be causing this, we can all use our past experiences and education and put them to the test.
Another piece of advice I would give is to be a sponge and absorb all that you can. Use the title of student as an opportunity to ask questions without restraint and to practice skills as much as possible. This is one of the best things I have done and continue to do to build upon the foundational knowledge I touched on earlier. Prepare yourself mentally and physically by taking care of yourself in your personal life by exercising, eating well and spending quality time with friends and family. Don’t forget to get outdoors and laugh at the silly things in life. This will help you to cope better when you bring everything that you have learned into a situation that has a bad outcome. As a great team player and communicator, you will be able to vent about situations to your coworkers and peers that understand the situation and are able to give feedback. As a student in the healthcare field, many new experiences and uncertainties are coming your way. Remember, BLS and ACLS are the foundations to your actions during an emergency with a patient. If you have these measures memorized and have practiced them, you can not only impress your faculty, preceptor and peers, but also potentially save someone’s life.