Bounce Back: Recovering from Difficult Calls

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As an emergency dispatcher, I have heard a wide variety of rescue calls. The worst calls, the ones that cause my immediate increased pulse rate and surge in adrenaline, are the ones involving children. Some of my most memorable calls are for infants that are pulseless non-breathers. I recently had a call for five month old. CPR in progress. No pulse. No breathing.

How do you bounce back from calls like this? These are my Everyday EMS Tips:

1. Believe in your skills. Know that you did everything you could have done for the patient, whether you are the dispatcher, the paramedic, or the ambulance driver.

2. Talk to other responders who were involved. Compliment personnel who were involved. After the incident with the five month old, I told my partner, “I really liked how you remained calm on the radio. Your tone made it easier for me to stay calm.” I told the paramedics, “You did an excellent job. The family is lucky that you were working.” Ask questions. What do you think went well? What would you do differently next time? By giving compliments and asking questions, you allow others to respond and begin a discussion about the incident.

3. Take a deep breath. While a call with an infant or any other high priority call comes in, other injuries and crimes do continue to occur. Take a deep breath or two, then take your next call.

The five month old survived. The long term neurological consequences won’t be known for years, but what is certain is that all involved did their jobs, then took their next call. Being able to bounce back is a part of your job. Believe in your skills, talk to other responders who were involved, and take a deep breath.

Now, go respond to your next call.

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