Emergency medical care is a crucial aspect instilled within our healthcare system; its foundation is built upon the backs of our hardworking, brilliant, and selfless healthcare providers. Without our incredible healthcare providers, there would be no healthcare system, thus resulting in a tremendous number of lives lost. Basic life support is a critical skill that all healthcare workers must possess in order to perform life saving measures on various patients.
In order to take care of our patients, we as providers, must also sustain ourselves. Mental and physical health go hand in hand and must absolutely be in order to ensure that we deliver the best possible care to patients in need. Life itself, is delicate and precious; all lives require nurture and structure among the inevitable chaos that is sure to come our way.
It is easy to forget to care for ourselves when we are so busy taking care of others. I have seen many healthcare workers physically collapse due to stress, sleep deprivation, exhaustion, anxiety and/or depression, among a multitude of other debilitating issues. My advice moving forward to all those considering a profession in the incredibly rewarding yet laborious healthcare field boils down to two words, have balance.
I will start off by divulging into physical health. Working in health care is labor intensive. You will be lifting heavy things, bending in all different ways, and you will constantly be on your feet, having to move quickly and surely.
First and foremost, make sure you are getting an adequate amount of sleep. Experts recommend an average of eight hours a night, but let us be honest, that can be nearly impossible working in healthcare. How do we combat this issue of not getting enough sleep? Simple, take naps whenever you get the chance. Even a quick ten-minute nap can help to refresh you and keep you awake throughout your shift.
In addition to adequate sleep, fueling your body with proper nutrients can help you keep up with a fast-paced work life. It is easy to dismiss a proper diet when you are so wrapped up in work, but the consequences of a poor diet can be deadly in the long run. Be sure to eat consistently, a minimum of three meals a day. When you feel like snacking, try to snack on organic and unprocessed fresh foods, such as vegetables, fruits, and nuts. It can be very tempting to succumb to the delicious and quick options that the vending machine provides but stay strong. If you absolutely must rely on a quick fix, I suggest protein bars as an alternative. Whatever you do, please do not skip meals. You must eat to build your energy. Eating unhealthy foods will cause you to feel sluggish but eating healthy foods will help energize you.
Food is one thing we need in order to survive, but water is equally, if not more, important. Water can help support mental clarity. Dehydration is a common enemy of our health care workers who are so busy running around that they simply forget to take a sip of water. Dehydration can cause dizziness and fainting. Be sure to drink lots of water or else you or bound to collapse. I used to hate drinking water because it makes me urinate frequently, but its better to pee than to pass out. Urinating also helps maintain homeostasis within your body and helps to remove toxins within our body.
Lastly, for physical health, be sure to exercise regularly. Go to the gym and work out different areas of your body. Working out will not only help you stay in shape, but it also helps with your mental wellness too by increasing your endorphins. Muscle training and cardio exercises will help to prevent muscle atrophy and help build our immune system as well, which we need in order to prevent illness. Take walks in the park and breathe fresh air, take in the sun and get your daily dose of vitamin D. Seeing different sights and nature is also helpful with your mental health.
Working in health can be mentally draining and extremely difficult. It can stir up feelings of sadness, insecurity, not feeling “good enough,” and lots of anxiety. These feelings usually stem from us being our harshest critics and being on a mission to save everyone that we fail to save ourselves. My advice regarding mental wellness is to check in with yourself regularly. Ask yourself the following questions. Am I happy? Am I taking care of myself? Why am I sad?
Just as we would want our patients to stay optimistic and take care of their mental health, we should also be taking care of ours. A sound mind is needed in order to take care of others and provide quality care. Also, be gentle towards yourself. It is easy to blame yourself for misfortune, but some things are out of our hands. Mistakes will happen. Death will happen. Not everything is in our control. There is no shame in feeling like you have failed, feeling you are not good enough, but those feelings should not go unaddressed. Be sure to talk to your family and friends, loved ones, fellow coworkers, and vent. It is never healthy to bottle things up inside. When you start to feel like no one understands, please seek help from a psychiatrist and visit a therapist regularly, because that can save a life. If we live, more patients will to.
Working in a high stress environment can be extremely difficult and mentally draining. If necessary, take a break where you can. Use the bathroom, eat a snack, splash your face with water, any small measure can make a sizeable difference in improving your mental health while working. If you need to cry, let it out. As stated previously, it is never a good idea to hold things within, too much pressure can cause you to explode or break down.
Overall, my advice in preparing to work in emergency health, is to keep yourself healthy, both mentally and physically. You must learn how to balance your health as well as your work. Pay attention to your mind and body, listen to what it tells you. We are so busy working so hard to save lives that we forget about our own, and that is detrimental to our health and can easily incapacitate us from being able to work effectively. Do not forget to savor the wonderful moments our job as healthcare workers allows us to.
While you wallow over the losses, celebrate the wins as well. Celebrate you. Be proud of the work you do and how much you help others. Like I said, this work, life itself, is all about balance. Take the bad with the good and remember to care for yourself while caring for others.