Fellow EMS Blogger Captain Chair Confessions (CCC) has a post up that will likely sound familiar to anyone who has spent more than 10 days in EMS.
CCC is experiencing the first smoldering effects of burn out.
The reason CCC is going to recover and grow from this experience is their ability to come out and talk about it. Granted, it’s more of a 1 way conversation considering the way the interwebs works, but it’s enough.
Simply recognizing something is happening is the first sign of recovery believe it or not.
I know CCC is feeling more than they are writing, and that’s OK, because everything will come out in the end. Every emotion, every angry thought hidden by a forced smile with teeth clenched on a transport everyone knows is unnecessary, everything will see the light of day.
That flickering flame CCC is feeling is easy to ignore and is often missed because of pride. Misplaced pride, but pride just the same. We tell ourselves that we need to toughen up, grin and bear it, grow a pair or some other lie we tell ourselves and ignore the growing flickering flame.
Worst part is, at this small stage the flame is easy to extinguish. Even the softest of breezes causes it to waver. Believe it or not, simply saying your frustrations out loud can be enough to knock down the tiny flame. Of course the fuel still remains and needs to be dealt with, but try taking a candle apart while it’s burning and you’re going to get hurt, spread a fire and be in worse condition than you are now.
The amount of fuel in EMS is staggering and I’ve seen shovels on both sides adding more. Admin needs more transports to meet payroll, response times need to be faster, posting moves aren’t efficient enough…you know the complaints. At the same time patients are getting less and less emergent and are calling more often looking for the quick service we’ve spent 40 years convincing them they needed.
Somewhere between a missed lunch and an angry call from the QI Captain you run a call like the one CCC had and the flame is back, flickering away in the back of your mind, ready to grow unchecked as soon as it can.
Don’t ignore that flickering, fluttering light. Talk to someone, anyone, write a letter and throw it away, get the frustration out of your system. Ever heard of screaming? Go for it. Find a local supermarket and ask them if you can borrow their walk in fridge for a minute. Shut the door and scream. Go ahead, I speak from experience when I tell you that the sky is a little brighter when you emerge.
From there attack the problem. Get involved, get active and if things can’t change, then you have to. Staying in a broken system that refuses to change isn’t healthy for you or your patients. Move.
Again, from experience, it helps. I got up, got out and landed somewhere where I eventually, just this last week, had a chance to rewrite our C-spine precautions policy. And it might just pass.
It took a long time to get where I am, but the flickering flame I spotted when I got hurt was doused when I first stepped into this little room on the internet and began to scream.
And CCC is doing the same thing.
Keep strong Brother (or Sister)!
If you feel that flickering of burn out and want to vent, drop me an email, I’ll read it, or not, whatever, just talk to someone, anyone.
You’ll be glad you did.