As medical professionals we are trained to assist patients in a medical setting where all the equipment and personnel are easily accessible. This makes the process more manageable. But what about outside the workplace where there are so many indefinites? This was my challenge. How do I mentally and physically prepare for an emergency situation knowing it can happen at any time?
For the past ten years Basic Life Support has been an on-going staple in my career. Not only has it been a requirement for the positions I’ve held as an aerobics instructor, weight loss counselor and medical assistant, it has served as an essential skill to help those in my community. This is something in which I take great pride. In addition, I realize that life-saving techniques are skills that one should have and not need rather than need and not have.
In all my years of being a medical professional, I can count on one hand the number of times I had to perform a life-saving technique. As a medical assistant, for example, I have never encountered a situation where I had to use my BLS training. I’ve worked in ambulatory care settings where there were higher level medical professionals who would initiate basic life support and I would assist. Ironically, observing the other medical professionals helped me to effectively perform life-saving techniques outside of the work place.
One’s reasons for going into the medical field should serve as a foundation that will set the stage for an active involvement in life-saving techniques. I chose the medical field because I am intrigued by the human body, I like to solve problems, and I like to make things better. Helping others improve their health and guiding clients to a more fit life has been my motivation. I genuinely want to help others. I had my first opportunity to assist a gentleman one afternoon at the grocery store and it seemed natural.
As I walked in the grocery store one day a tall gentlemen was walking out. He collapsed right in front of me. I had no time to think, but went straight into action. It was as if something came over me and I was being guided. Before I knew it, I was at his side checking for responsiveness. The same held true when my one and a half-year-old niece was choking on a piece of food. I immediately grabbed her and began the back slaps and chest thrusts.
In both instances, these events were not foreseen, but I was adequately prepared. Every two years for the past ten years I have renewed my First Aid and Basic Life Support certifications with the American Heart Association. This ongoing training has been critical in ensuring preparation for unforeseen emergencies. Changes in the medical field are constant, so renewing my certifications is essential for mental preparation for emergencies. During the training, participants are introduced to different life-threatening scenarios and how to assist using life-saving techniques.
I’ve learned that both training and motivation for working in the medical field are important pieces of the “preparedness puzzle,” however, there is one other piece of the puzzle that will ensure success when performing life-saving techniques. Basic Life Support is physically grueling, specifically when performing hands-only CPR. There may be a long lag time between the time chest compressions begin and when the emergency response team arrives. In addition, in an ambulatory setting medical professionals have to move rapidly to work collectively as a medical rescue team. Staying physically fit is an important piece to the puzzle. I am constantly on my feet moving from point A to point B and back to point A. This is the physical preparation for performing life-saving techniques both in and out of the ambulatory care setting.
My experience has taught me that when presented with an opportunity to help others in distress rise to the occasion. After taking my first BLS course I was not sure how or even if I would jump at the opportunity to start CPR on a stranger. Only after being in that situation did I realize that this is what I was meant to do, what I want to do- help others. The initial anxiety of helping a stranger was surpassed once the realization set in that I played a part in saving someone’s life. For those exploring the field and questioning whether or not they can do it, it all boils down to three things: the reasons for being in the medical field, adequate training and physical preparedness. These are the factors that equip me for any emergency situation!