Episode 08: Self-Care and Dealing with Trauma with Dan Davis (Part 2)
We’ve reached the end of the first season of the Pre-Hospital Care podcast! In this episode, we rejoin Eoin and Rich’s conversation with Dan Davis as they talk about dealing with the emotional trauma that is, unfortunately, part and parcel of pre-hospital care.
If you’d like to make this season a part of your CPD, we have created a short course of assessment questions to prove that you have indeed listened to the show, which will give you a certificate PDF that you can add to your portfolio.
Firstly, it is completely normal to become overwhelmed by a horrific spectacle. Even experienced paramedics can find themselves emotionally maxed out.
Avoiding emotional extremes is not about being cold or detached. If you’re new to the job and you find yourself in the midst of an on-scene meltdown, you might assume you don’t have what it takes as you observe the more experienced paramedics comport themselves with apparent ease. However, that’s not necessarily the case. They may well be feeling the same things you are, but they’ve developed the mental tools necessary to put them to one side until the job is done.
You can learn the same tools, such as, when you recognise that the situation is bringing you to overwhelm, switch your full attention to only the very next task that needs doing, and then the next, and then the next, moving towards a solution one step at a time.
As an advanced paramedic, how can you help someone who’s experiencing full emotional overwhelm on-scene?
Give them a focusable task. For example, put them in charge of choosing the drugs to administer.
Give them an excuse to leave the scene for a few minutes to compose themselves, such as asking them to fetch something from the car.
If all else fails and they cannot comport themselves, give them permission to bow out of the job and take a mental note to discuss it with them later.
What Makes Overwhelm More Likely?
Those who arrive first on the scene are met with more chaos and uncertainty than the critical care paramedics who will arrive on a more advanced scene. Uncertainty can multiply psychological stress, turning a gruesome or tragic scene into something truly overwhelming.
Being a part of a team reduces mental stress considerably. If you’re working solo, be sure to share anything that feels like a burden on your mind with a trusted friend or colleague.
Restfulness and healthfulness also contribute a great deal to your mental state. If you are called on to do four nights in a row, your resilience and your emotional “bank” will be greatly reduced by the end, due in large part to disrupted sleep and nutrition.