Benjamin Battenfield - Medical essay | Pacific Medical Training

Submitted 2022-10-19

Push hard, push fast. Early compressions, and early defibrillation saves lives. These are the words that echo through my head everytime I hear the tones drop and read “Cardiac arrest P1 Response” across my screen. I am a veteran of 10 years in the prehospital setting as a Paramedic. I have had countless encounters with patients ranging from neonates to centurians. All of these encounters have shaped me mentally, psychologically, and spiritually. I remember my first pediatric ACLS code while in my internship, and the heart ache I felt after we found out he had passed later that night in the ER. I was raw and angry at the world. I had been told time and time again as I ran scenarios in school that if we performed the right interventions, in the right sequence, and drove fast enough…that we would save lives. My preceptor at the time took me to the back of the ER, lit a cigarette and said “you win some and you lose some.” No elaboration. No decompression. Just apathy. I vowed to myself that at that moment I wouldn’t be like him. He never asked for help, he never spoke out, he just suffered, and as a result took his life years later. I recognized later that these signs are seen throughout Emergency Medicine and EMS as a whole. Certain levels of apathy are required to make critical decisions in critical moments. It is a balance. A balance between empathy and compassion for those we treat, and the ability to act with calm composure in critical moments when shaky hands and second guessing will cost lives. Mental and physical preparation for the job we are called toward is more important than any class or any schooling a provider can take. ACLS and PALS are like breathing and our mind compartmentalizes the actions we’re taking into a box of memories we’d rather not acknowledge. The feel of a scalpel opening up a blocked trachea, or the crack of ribs during the first compression. My school and my instructors had taught me to box it up, shove it down and move on. Not to cope and not to work through those memories with self love and compassion for any emotions I might feel. Early on in EMS I was unable to seperate life from the job and calls like those accumulated over the years. To my blessing and fortune my mother noticed a change in me that made her speak up and speak truth into my life. I had gotten to the point that I had become numb to the job. I wasn’t coping, I was surviving. I was apathetic to the highs and lows of emergency medicine. She and my loved ones got me onto a regime of speaking in group therapy for first responders, and vigorous exercise to cope with stressors that had no real outlet. I got involved with peer support and began to teach and train these coping techniques to those entering our field. For some it’s meditation, others its exercise, and in some cases its religion or faith. In all instances though there needs to be some level of separation and removal from the job. A hobby that has nothing to do with medicine or emergencies. It’s any place you can rest and leave the work at work. For me that has become nature and time with my wife. She became the healer of the healer, and that support and love has brought me to the conclusion that more has to be done.

As a paramedic you are taught TCCC (Tactical Combat Casualty Care) and any responders first objective is to not become a victim yourself. To not become another casualty or patient. In the same way it is paramount to train your mind and body to respond to stressors you are inevitably going to face, so that you can avoid becoming a casualty yourself. In the past 10 years I have lost brothers and sisters to the stress of the job. My goal in seeking higher education is to elevate to a position where the established community of medical professionals never has another light snuffed out due to untreated stress and depression. It’s been said that paramedics make the worst patients. Anyone who is so used to caring for others and so used to being the healer is often resistant to accepting treatment themselves. I will counter that as I advance in my career and life, with its impossible to be an effective healer when you haven’t prepared your mind and body to do the work you’re about to embark upon.