The ACLS Scholarship for Healthcare Providers first caught my eye because of the applicability of emergency medical care like basic life support (BLS) to various areas of my life. I first obtained CPR training as part of a lifeguard training course, and again in college as part of my Advanced Open Water Scuba class. This year, I obtained my certification as a level 1 Rowing (crew) Coach through USRowing, which required CPR and First Aid training. I have to come to realize that lifeguarding, scuba diving, and coaching rowing are all activities where situations may arise that require knowledge of emergency medical care.
As an undergraduate pre-pharmacy student entering pharmacy school next year, I have not been in an emergency situation in a healthcare setting that has required me to use CPR or similar skills. However, the number of certifications and activities that require BLS qualifications has made me realize the importance of being able to respond to such emergencies. Being in and around water poses obvious risks, but emergencies requiring CPR, first aid, or related skills can develop in any situation. Because the need for emergency care can arise anywhere, BLS knowledge is especially important for healthcare providers and students due to the environment in which they work and learn, even if they are not responding to such situations on an everyday basis.
I remember discussing in my lifeguard course that physical and mental preparedness are essential aspects of emergency preparedness. Frequently practicing and reviewing CPR, AED, emergency oxygen and first aid skills increase my confidence that I can and will respond appropriately to an emergency if needed. While mandatory yearly recertification sessions are a good way to keep skills current, reviewing the material myself is also a good way to stay updated on protocols. When I check in with myself to see if I remember a certain skill and realize that I cannot recall all the details, I go back to my handbooks. When fight-or-flight takes over in highly stressful situations, I want to be able to respond with habits I have formed over time, instead of trying to remember what to do on the spot.
Apart from physical preparedness for basic life support care, visualization of using these skills can be a very valuable strategy for mentally preparing to respond to situations. Lifeguards on the stand might observe various pool patrons, take note of their perceived swimming ability and emergency risk, and mentally picture various reactions to situations to which they may need to respond. This sort of active guarding may also be helpful in preventing drifting of attention during long hours on the stand. While this example is specific to lifeguarding, any healthcare professionals and students might benefit from such mental preparation. Taking some time to mentally run through the steps of responding to a medical emergency may allow you to find weak spots in your preparation, such as not remembering appropriate compression-to-breath ratios.
In addition to knowing where to find emergency equipment at a school, workplace, or healthcare setting, it is important that healthcare providers know how it is used. Because operating procedures may differ among manufacturers, knowing how to use the specific equipment in your setting is important in the ability to respond to medical emergencies, as well as confidence in doing so. Knowledge of equipment use applies to many fields, not just healthcare, such as in a laboratory, where not being able to find the fire extinguisher or eye wash station can lead to catastrophic effects. The ongoing trend to incorporate AEDs into a variety of settings leads to an increase in provider confidence in achieving a better outcome while performing high-quality CPR.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also highlighted the importance of accessing and using personal protective equipment (PPE). If I know I have access to appropriate PPE to keep me safe while I care for a patient, I will feel much more comfortable providing emergency care in my career as a healthcare provider. Difficult situations result from increasing scarcity of PPE, which has unfortunately been a major problem during this worldwide public health situation. While I have never personally experienced this issue in a healthcare setting, not having appropriate PPE to respond to an emergency situation requiring basic or advanced life support care must be incredibly stressful. I cannot imagine having to make a decision to initiate bystander CPR in the current pandemic situation. It is essential that all providers have access to equipment that will keep them safe while they perform life-saving techniques on patients.
Overall, physical and mental preparation are equally important for healthcare professionals and students who may find it necessary to provide BLS care in their careers. I am looking forward to entering the field of pharmacy to learn about more advanced life support techniques specific to healthcare providers. While I am not yet sure how I may need to apply my skills and knowledge, I hope that being prepared and confident in my ability to help will allow me to respond appropriately to emergency situations that may arise in my education and career.