Basic Life Support; a critical and lifesaving skill every healthcare provider should have. Seeing it through the eyes of a twenty-three-year-old final year medical student, it is more than just basic. Rather, that’s what Medicine is all about; saving lives. The only difference it has from Surgery, Obstetrics and various medical specializations is the urgency it entails.
I have never been a victim of any emergency care; the worst I have experienced was two episodes of diarrhea on account of food poisoning which was self-limiting. But, I have had to empathize and maybe in my own little way share the experience of patients and relatives who experience poor emergency care. I have felt the sadness several times and seen that hopeless on relative’s faces when their loved one is left unattended to. I have also seen that bright smile and felt the joy when the patient gets well or is stable, even better when discharged. Nothing can replace such experience. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case in the country I live in. Little or no attention is given to the health sector talk less emergency care. There is really nothing urgent about the emergency unit and it can be described as laughable.
So where do I come in as this young lady who wants to most times share that joy? (I am very aware that not everyone will survive, it will only be wishful thinking to desire that). Well, there is very little I can do in providing funds for quality emergency care. Maybe I could send letters weekly to the state government to upgrade the general hospital located in my state, but that seems a little far-fetched if not hopeless. However, I can play my own role by preparing adequately when doing my emergency rotation always having it at the back of my mind to do no harm. Preparation covers a lot; it includes physical, mental, social and even spiritual preparation. All are relevant but I will focus more on mental and physical preparation.
Mental preparation will include having Basic Life Support skills at the tip of my fingers by getting adequate training through diligent observation and assistance when needed. If I don’t know what to do when a patient needs my help then I can’t save!I must be able to manage common emergency cases in my environment else shouldn’t be given the license to practice Medicine.
I should learn to feel empathy towards patients. Patients are more than just cases or clinical diagnosis, they are much more. Every life is important! The role of empathy in Medicine has been a debate over time but it sure cannot be ignored. What makes you a good doctor in the eyes of patients and their loved one is how much you can feel and understand their pain and emotions and not necessarily how high your grades were in school(you need both qualities as a doctor though ). Empathy can be learned. Taking few courses on it will sure make a difference. Also, learning to strike a balance of feeling too much empathy that can be detrimental to the management of the patient is also important.
One final mental preparation is to be calm in the mist of the rush, yells and maybe a little confusion. Nothing makes you more alert and steady than controlling that adrenaline rush which seems like a norm for every emergency rotation I go through. I need a clear head to know what steps would be needed in saving my patient’s life. Avoiding substances that could alter my level of alertness is expedient. If at all I need to be on any medications that could do so, I will rather ask for permission to be off duty. Treating every soul as precious will influence my decisions in treatment and also the outcome.
Now that I am mentally prepared to save the patient, physical preparation should follow and that means being physically present. Sounds funny, but why learn those lifesaving skills, take those empathy classes and when I am needed, I am nowhere to be found. I must be physically available, that includes resuming early and ensure my colleagues have an effective way of reaching me when necessary. Putting on the right dress code for emergency which is usually scrubs or a ward coat is important to control infection and easy changing in case of contamination. I will ensure all instruments and equipment needed for resuscitation are working and in good condition. The cannulas have to be easily accessible. The adrenaline I need to stop that allergic reaction a patient might be experiencing must not be fifteen minutes away or in a locked drawer with no idea where the key is!
And finally, getting good rest and nutrition. The medical profession though tasking is a sensitive one and needs the full attention of whoever is involved to make a sound judgment. Sleep indeed is a scarce commodity as a doctor because there is a lot to do but getting good sleep should not be underestimated. It simply involves setting your priorities right and doing what matters.
Emergency care is a demanding yet rewarding aspect of Medicine. There is a sense of fulfillment to see sick people discharged home healthy and in good condition. This can only come when the healthcare giver is well prepared to provide the needed treatment promptly.