Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Depression, Change, Friends, and Recovery.

It has been a while. During this time I have changed jobs, had some family problems, and I fell back into the an old enemy, depression. We in EMS are big on hiding from our pain and acting like it doesn't affect us. We often hide through substance or self abuse. I personally became aware of it when I snapped on my wife and made an inappropriate statement in front of a patient. These are out of character for me, and this showed me that I was having a problem. My old pal depression was back.

Depression is an affliction that strikes many in EMS. We are told to get tough. If it shakes you, then you are in the wrong job. You should not allow yourself to become that close. Just put it behind you, you can't do anything about it. But that doesn't work, because to be good at what we do, we have to be able to empathize with our patients. Empathy requires that we feel. It cannot be faked or compensated for.

So on to my story, when I was shocked into action, I started reaching out. Many of those that listened to my private rants and offered help are members of the Code Green Campaign. I was also offered assistance from my employer, which was welcome. My employer has a plan in place to assist employees in trouble that is available from day one.

So far, I have been able to avoid medication, but I was forced to do some serious introspection and evaluation. I am doing better, but I am still considering medication. I am going to share some of the things that helped me. The most important thing was to admit that I was depressed. You cannot beat this or even fight it without admitting it. I know people that have ruined their lives trying to drink, use drugs, or sleep around till they feel better. This does not work. It will make things worse, causing often irreparable damage to you relationships, the very ones you will need to ensure you make it through this.

I took a step back and examined what I wanted to do with my life and was EMS part of it still. I recently changed jobs, and increased my commute for slightly less money, but it was improved by the increase in benefits. I also had a truly private problem, that I will not discuss here. But in changing jobs I left the state I started in. I was not happy working under the system I was in. Even though the system was systemically broken, I felt as though I had given up. That was part of the problem. I had also labored under that system with the goal of changing it. I had to leave.

So I took I reached out to those who were on my side. I talked to people who had been through it. I also read some articles that allowed me accept that my emotional involvement was a good thing, something I should have remembered. Also I was reminded that leaving is sometimes necessary for perspective and growth. But it made me feel like I was a failure. See in leaving Illinois, I realized I had to abandon that fight from the frontlines. It was like a divorce. Probably for the best, but still feels like a failure. So I am winning the struggle. It isn't over yet, but I am happier now.

The following blogs are part of what helped me.

These are but a small amount of the EMS blogs out there that I read. They allowed me to accept that I was ok. Changing jobs, feeling pain, these things are ok. Asking for help when it hits is ok as well. Sometimes, you have to understand that you can't change the world alone. If you are a provider that is in this place. Message me on here. Ask your friends Ifand employer for help. Talk to someone. You are not alone. EMS Suicide it a disease we inflict on our own. I refuse to be in that statistic. I hope you agree.

To those who helped me, actively or passively thank you. To those who are in trouble, you are not alone. Please visit and donate. These folks do good work.

Thank you for your time,

Lone Medic

Friday, June 20, 2014

A simple concept that is often forgot.

First and foremost, I would like to recommend that any EMS professionals reading this take your time to listen to the Inside EMS podcast. Kelly Grayson and Chris Cebollero. Follow the attached link and enjoy. The EMS news, clinical information, and guests provide insight into the future of EMS. Please follow the attached link. http://www.ems1.com/columnists/inside-ems/

                Now on to the new post. You sit around any EMS squadroom and you hear people talking about the calls they had and amazing skills they performed. From catching a STEMI early to quickly managing an airway. I know I am guilty of this myself. We have a lot of bravado in this professional. But we are often missing what makes people remember you in a positive way.

                Taking time to do little things often improves the patient’s opinion of you. There was recent discussion online about whether or not you should allow a patient take a selfie with you after appropriately managing their pain. Really, a patient wants to brag on how you helped them in an extremely modern way and you think it is a bad idea.

                I have saw and helped other EMS personnel take a few extra minutes with a patient ensuring their dog was fed or their lights were off. These might seem like small things but they relieve anxiety. These acts of kindness also help providers reconnect with the humanity we often try to leave behind. They are a form of compassion that should be encouraged.

                Compassion, that is often considered a word of weakness. In a world where providers grab up t-shirts that say things like here to save your ass not kiss it or drive safe or I get to see you naked. We celebrate the burnouts and listen to people who actively encourage negative attitudes about the profession. I know those dialysis appointments are a total waste of your time, even though you are providing an actual lifesaving service at the time. Yet being nice and compassionate is often the most effective way to have a real impact on your patient.

                I was recently called to a patient where I had transported a member of the patient’s family. The patient was a pediatric and was apprehensive until they were told by the family member how I treated them. One seemingly unrelated act allowed me to effectively manage a situation. Learn to be proud of getting the hugs from your elderly patients. When you are getting these responses you know that you are providing compassionate care.  They won’t remember you starting an IV or rapidly intubating them to save their life. They will remember you treated them with respect and care. In the end that can make the difference between being able to appropriately intervene and not.


                                                                                                                                Until we meet again,

                                                                                                             Lone Medic

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Listen to the cry for help.

                I recently read Kelly Grayson’s new article on EMS1. Now most people who know me, know that Kelly is on my required reading list, and that I am occasionally fortunate enough to speak with him. So the linked article was a final push that lead me to posting this particular post.

                In 2006, I was clinically depressed. My marriage was on the rocks, I hated EMS. I had no prospects for improving things. I was near the end of my rope. I had a continuous stream of bad calls, which sooner or later gets to you. But I was fortunate. I found a job that allowed me to use my talents, knowledge, and experience while lowering my overall stress level. I jumped at it, and will forever be grateful.

                I was lucky. Many are not. We need to look for the signs of depression and burnout in our fellow EMS types. We often hide our problems from fellow EMS personnel, as well as friends and family. We have to look out for one another. Please help your brother and sister EMS personnel. If you’re in trouble, please get help. Use whatever recourses you have immediately. We lose to many to despair and depression.

Thank you Kelly, We need more like you,


Lone Medic

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Mentorship and professional development.

              I had an encounter with a decent young EMT who was leaving the field. This young man had a strong sense compassion, the ability to think, and truly wanted to help people. He was not helped grow as an EMT. He was not taught the things he should have been. His partner was quick to blame him for any failures. He seemed to think that he should take responsibility for things that went wrong. I happened to be driving while he was finishing a PCR when we were dispatched to an emergency call. It took us an inordinate amount of time due to confusion on my part. He was willing to take the blame for this as he was quitting, and thought it was ok. That’s when I started seething.

                When I started in this business, I had several Paramedics and senior EMTs who took time to ensure that my questions were answered. They reassured me when I thought I did something wrong. I was corrected when I actually was wrong, but at no point was I belittled. I was mentored. We didn’t call it that, it was just how things were done. If someone wanted to be an EMT and was willing to listen we helped them. Now to be honest, we often eased or tried to force people out who we noticed were dangerous.

                Everyone was given a chance because you never knew who was going to have the ability to do the job. We took time to cover skills that were often neglected in class. We listened and took time to help them deal when that bad call came. We had a lot of people turn out to be good EMT’s and some of them became Paramedics with the talent and understanding. It seems silly but it worked.

                This seems to be gone these days. People make mistakes, and new people are unsure of themselves. Someone’s inexperience should not be an excuse to shift blame to them. These people need your guidance. When you make a mistake, own that mistake. Show the new person that mistakes should be a chance to improve. Learn from your errors and grow from them. Teach these things to new EMTs.

                I mentioned a bad response time earlier. I went to the Supervisor on duty and took my concerns to him. I readily admitted that I was the one in error. I also took my concerns to him. As an employee I felt it was my job to pass on my concerns. I also explained to the young man that he did not want to burn his bridges. He might want to come back one day. I hope that he returns to EMS, as we need people who have the passion to help others.

                A blogger who I respect has stated the good judgment comes from experience and that experience comes with bad judgment. Bad judgment seems to cause a lot more situations like this. If we refuse to mentor people EMS will continue to be a job and not a profession. EMS will not be a destination, but a stop towards something else. We often discuss better treatment modalities, appropriate response types, and bases vs. SSM. But we never discuss how to improve the profession from the inside. You are the first person that young EMT gets to work with. You are the one that will influence their mentality. Don’t treat them like they should be perfect. Remember someone took the time to help you.  Good mentorship will give you that partner that you want. The one that can anticipate your moves and sees patients as a human beings.


Thank you for your time,

Lone Medic