Performing Basic Life Support (BLS) is something all healthcare practitioners must be prepared for in their careers, especially those working in acute care settings. As a nurse, I must be mentally and physically ready to perform the specific tasks and procedures necessary to assist my team in the event life saving measures are required. As a current LPN, and future RN working in an acute care setting, being prepared and knowing my role is always something I have in the back of my mind when starting my work day. There were days however, as a newly graduated nurse, where the pressure to perform and the burden of possibly “freezing” in such an event weighed on my conscience. Looking back on those early days of my career, certain experiences and areas of knowledge could have come in handy in order to build my confidence as a nurse, and as a provider for my patients and their families. I’ll highlight a few here, with the hope that this assists other healthcare workers as they navigate the mentally and physically stressful situations that performing Basic Life Support can bring.
Something that stuck to me after caring for my first code patient a few years ago was the instant moment in which I followed the very basics of BLS and my BLS training. When finding the patient, I was immediately brought into a training scenario mindset. I attempted to wake the patient and garnered no response; I checked for respirations and a pulse; I activated the emergency response system and called for help; and finally, I began to initiate high quality CPR. I innately recalled the proper positioning of my hands in reference to the patient’s chest, the adequate depth of my compressions, and the appropriate rate at which to perform those compressions. Something that I didn’t ever think about was happening; after years of training and having the appropriate guidance from my healthcare authority and those who trained me in BLS so many times previously, the techniques and training we need to have in order to perform heroic measures were basically programmed into my brain. I performed these tasks without even thinking about it. Looking back, I think it’s important to hold confidence in your training and your abilities, and to know that you have the knowledge and capabilities to do what you need to do. This will help you to mentally block out any doubts you have about forgetting the basics of physically performing BLS procedures.
While situations that require life saving measures mean you have to be at your best, you’re never alone. One of the best things about beginning your career in healthcare is the fact that you’re surrounded by other individuals with the same values and training as you. As such, it’s important to remember that you aren’t alone when dealing with a BLS scenario. Your team will be there to support and assist you. This is something I’ve learned and continue to lean on in my career; the essential attitude to trust your team. No BLS event is ever asked to fall on the shoulders of one individual. The training we receive when completing our BLS certificates always stress the need to call for help, activate emergency response systems, and explain our actions and techniques to our colleagues. Much like I instantly recalled my training and skills when performing in my first code situation, my teammates also relied on the BLS training they had received in the past too. They remembered to retrieve a crash cart, call out overhead for the code team to assist, and assisted me in the hands-on skills needed to facilitate life saving measures. When completing your BLS training, always remember to respect and put trust in those completing it with you. One day, you’ll call on their support in a real-life situation and that trust will manifest itself into a better outcome for your patient. It will also ensure you mentally and physically have the understanding that you aren’t alone in those situations, which will help you approach them in a more positive and optimistic mindset.
Finally, I realized the value of evaluating my performance following the use of BLS training. In situations where seconds can make a difference for the outcome of your patient, it’s a necessity to look back on your performance both as a team and as an individual in order to ensure you’re performing the skills you’ve learned to the optimal levels required. The training we receive through courses such as BLS & ACLS give us the skills necessary to help save lives, but without adequate follow-up and evaluation you put yourself at risk of getting complacent or lazy in the techniques and procedures you’ve learned. With algorithms and policies changing frequently, follow-up and evaluation with other team members can help remove some of the mental strain that can weigh on healthcare workers following highly intense situations where BLS is required, and it also means that the physical requirements of these procedures do not get lost in the many other duties we need to perform as healthcare workers.
BLS and ACLS training has given me invaluable tools to help me prepare mentally and physically for using life-saving techniques in my career. I understand through my previous experiences that trusting and having confidence in my abilities, trusting my team, and evaluating my performance in these situations has assisted me in dealing with the pressures of using life-saving techniques in my career. I know first-hand that managing these situations can feel mentally and physically daunting when we first encounter them, but with the appropriate training and mindset, any new healthcare worker has the ability to perform the life-saving measures our patients might require. I hope my insight can assist future healthcare workers in their journey through their respective fields and reinforce the inherent positive values and attitudes that we all hold as caregivers for our patients, in whatever situations we may face in their care.