Working in the medical field comes with great responsibility. In order to remain respected among the community and helpful to those unfortunate enough to require emergency medical care, healthcare providers must maintain their physical and mental health as well as stay up to date on the current recommendations for practice. Healthcare is a constantly evolving field due to new research data and rapidly improving technology. Healthcare providers must have a genuine interest and commitment to learning new procedures and adapting the changes to our practice. When under stress in the heat of the moment, we want to be sure that we apply the most relevant practices in order to provide safe and effective care. In emergency situations, we as healthcare providers are what stand between life and death for our patients. It is vital that we remain vigilant in our continued education and maintain ourselves as a well-rounded person in order to give our patients the best chance for survival.
I first began working as an Emergency Medical Technician when I was a senior in high school. After becoming Basic Life Support (BLS) certified, I was confident in my ability to deliver high quality cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Real-life CPR was not what I expected and my first time will remain unforgettable. Among the many protocols racing through my head, one of my first thoughts was, “Woah this is a real person, someone with their own family, a whole life with likes and dislikes, hobbies, goals, and ambitions.” My thought that followed soon thereafter was, “man, I seriously need to go to the gym.” This experience was pivotal to the foundation of my career as a healthcare provider. As a high school student starting fresh in a stressful and rewarding career, I was fortunate enough to develop a unique perspective and appreciation for life early on. I also quickly came to understand the importance of self-care in a field where providers are expected to give so much of ourselves for the improvement of life for others. This pressure and stress of striving to be the best healthcare provider you can be unfortunately often leads to burnout. Self-care can mean many things, but to me self-care is providing myself the space to improve and maintain optimal mental and physical health. Mental health includes a strong mind that allows for a healthy debriefing and self-reflection of events after difficult situations and feeling and processing of emotions without judgment. Mindfulness and meditation are methods that I recommend and plan to continue to use for mental strengthening. Combining breathwork with movement, such as yoga or hiking, in order to process difficult events or uncomfortable lingering emotions is another great tool to use for mental fitness. In addition, many facilities offer free debriefing and counseling services which can serve as an invaluable resource for healthcare providers. Since the pandemic, stress and burnout rates have skyrocketed in a field that was already stressed enough; therefore, it is important for providers to use what resources are available to ensure we are offering ourselves and our patients the best version of our being.
Physical health is another significant factor in emergency scenarios. CPR is a marathon not a sprint; maintaining optimal physical health guarantees enough strength and stamina to deliver effective emergency care, especially chest compressions. Although ensuring your rooms are stocked and having an emergency plan set in place helps to decrease the frenzy, inevitably some supplies and equipment will be missing necessitating additional stamina to race to gather the missing items. Within the hospital setting, transporting your patient to and from emergency testing could also be another energy draining source. Our patients trust us to be there for them when they need it. Staying fit and physically healthy ensures we are always ready for the demands that effective emergency care requires.
Equal to maintaining a healthy mind and body, education is necessary for safe emergency care. Critical education and training related to providing emergency care includes simulations with practice dummies, code drills, recertification classes and finally translating that learned knowledge into physical practice. Some experts argue exactly how long it takes someone to master a skill; however, most would probably agree it takes many hours and repetitions that you do not want to spend practicing on real people. Simulations and drills are essential to mastering emergency care before you have to perform them in a real life or death situation. In addition, emergency protocols are continually being updated; therefore, it is important to remain up to date on the most relevant practices in order to provide the safest care. In the end, the best way to ensure preparedness is through frequent quality continuing education and emergency practice, robust preventative and sustaining mental health care, and top physical fitness.
A longtime sport coach I had growing up had a favorite phrase that has stuck with me throughout my life: perfect practice makes perfect performance. In other words, we are only as good as we practice. This phrase continues to apply to many different facets of my life. Continuing education and my commitment to my mental and physical health is my practice to becoming the best provider I can be. I cannot expect to practice mediocrely and expect to perform exceptionally, especially under stress. The hours of work, studying, and simulation practice are vital to ensure a perfect performance- safe and effective emergency health care for my patients. Thank you for this opportunity to share my current knowledge and practices with other students in the healthcare field. I look forward to translating what I have learned thus far as an intensive care nurse and what I will learn in the future as a nurse midwife and providing emergency care for pregnant women and newborns.