Have You Set Your Goals?

January 3, 2013 § Leave a comment

y Notice I didn’t ask if you had made any resolutions!  I don’t believe in resolving, I believe in setting goals. While I’m not sure there is a difference, to me a goal is attainable. So, I ask, Have you set your goals?  It’s a new year and a great time to start.  I have two lists, personal goals and professional goals.  Each has more than one goal, because I’m an overacheiver 🙂  Seriously just kidding.  I have multiple goals because I like the motivation and purpose. It drives me. I thought this would be a great place to share goals so that I can be held accountable and so that I can come back to them and remind myself exactly what I’m working to and striving for.

Personal Goals
1.  Family First – I will spend more quality time with family, both as a family and individually with each of my sons and my husband.  It’s so easy to get wrapped up in work, the volunteer agency, errands, etc. and forget to just enjoy the moments and create the memories
2.  Don’t push my limits – As many of us in the system are, I’m often over extending myself and taking on too much. I”m goign to make sure that I don’t overwhelm myself with too many tasks.  I’ve already started off on the right foot by committing to only one full EMT class a year
3.  Make time for me – As a mom, wife, employee, supervisor, agency leader, daughter, etc. it’s easy to focus on everyone else and to forget to take time for me.  When I forget to do things for me I become overstressed. This year the things for me will focus on improving my health, my fitness, and my overall general feeling of self (I am my worst critic).

Professional Goals
1.  Decrease the negative output and increase the positive examples – It is easy to slip into the negative attitude at work. Instead of focusing on the negative, I am going to take my ability to focus more on the positive.  Now, I’m not saying that I’m not going to have negative comments, but I will definitely do it less, or at least save it for at home (instead of in front of my employees).
2.  Write more – Not just assigned writings, but this blog, my thoughts, etc.  I like to think I have great information to share, but I often don’t share it for fear of what people will think/say (thus the often long breaks between posts). I want to share my ideas and advance EMS, Emergency Management, Health and Safety with others.
3.  Train more and put into practice – I was certified as an ALS provider in June and just last week got on the ambulance for the first time.  There is something SERIOUSLY wrong with that.  The great part is that if I succeed at personal goal 3, I will also be able to do this, because sometimes the best “me” time I take is riding on an ambulance.

So, those are my goals. The best part about them is that I am in control of them. I am the one that will control whether or not I succeed at them. If I don’t, I am the one that is responsible.

So, what are your goals, either professional/personally or both?

Thanks for reading and until next time…stay safe!


What About Scene Safety?

December 28, 2012 § Leave a comment

Like the rest of you I have been horrified by the recent trend of violence against innocence. First the mass shooting in Newtown Connecticut and then the Christmas Eve shootings of the two firefighters, arriving at what they thought was a simple house fire. My heart is ripped out at the news like this. These two stories have been especially hard, not because the children killed in the Newtown were the same age as my oldest or because my own husband was on shift at the firehouse on Christmas Eve, but because of the media and the ensuing political debate that has arisen since these events.  I have seen the general public up and those new to the service up in arms over the safety of Fire and EMS at emergency operations.  My thought on this may not be the popular one.  All I can think is


In 1997 a secondary explosion at an abortion clinic was timed to go off after the first responders had arrived on scene and begun rescue operations. (http://cgi.cnn.com/US/9701/16/atlanta.blast.update/).  On January 31, 2009 a 25 year old EMT was shot and killed by a patient he was caring for (http://www.firerescue1.com/fire-ems/articles/450084-NY-EMT-shot-dead-by-patient/). Heck, a Google search of assault of EMT, EMT shot, or any other combination of words, brings up multiple articles.  If you read on the studies after 9/11/01, many believe that the plan was for the collapse of the building was to injure and kill the first responders.  In other words, our safety has always been a concern!

As an EMT instructor one of the first lectures I teach is scene safety. I teach personal well-being and personal safety, and each lecture begins with the reminder that you don’t approach unless the scene is safe. I’ve taken great classes on Situational Awareness, and personal protection that are designed to improve my personal safety, but I am also VERY aware of the fact that we can’t be prepared for everything.  What we do opens us up to the potential of unsafe situations. I was at a house fire where an irate home owner became overly aggressive with the firefighters, to the point that the pike pole was used to keep him at bay until law enforcement could step in.  Now, don’t get me wrong, there are situations where, no matter how much you do, you will not be able to prevent everything, but our focus should be on our personal safety, our crew’s safety, and then our ability to do the job. 

I truly believe that the media coverage of the recent shootings has been what brought this into so many minds. If you follow the website www.firefighterclosecalls.com you’ve seen the stories over the years regarding every shooting, almost shooting, or assault.  Bottom line is, we must ALWAYS be ready. We must always be prepared for a scene to go bad and we must do whatever we can go keep the belief that EVERYONE MUST GO HOME! 

Please don’t get me wrong, this is not a post to blame any of those who have been lost as a result of violence against them during emergencies. This is just a post to remind you that you must always have your eyes open, your mind open, and your body prepared to respond to the things that can arise at an emergency scene.  My thoughts tomorrow will be with those who are mourning the loss of their brother in Webster, NY, as they are every day with those who have lost loved ones in the line of duty and my prayers will continue to be that one day we can do our job without worrying about our safety being put into jeopardy by things we aren’t trained for!

Until next time…stay safe!

It feels like just yesterday

September 11, 2012 § Leave a comment

That’s not a lie. It honestly feels like just yesterday that the planes hit the World Trade CEnter, the Pentagon, and went down in that field in Pennsylvania. It feels like just yesterday that the nation realized that the world we knew, was no longer. It feels like just yesterday that so many innocent lives were taken in such a senseless act. And yet, here we are today recognizing the 11th anniversary of the event that changed so much.

I’ve spent time today thinking of each of the past 11 years and what I did each year to honor those who were taken. Most importantly I took time to remember the raw emotion experienced on 09/11/01.  I was in my last semester of college and hadn’t yet woken for classes. When the phone rang my first though was of the lost sleep thanks to this interruption.  Who knew there would be so many more lost hours of sleep in the days to come. I woke up in time to turn the TV on, shake the cobwebs and realize what was happening and watched the plane crash into the second tower. I was also glued to the TV when Jim Miklaszewski reported that the Pentagon was being evacuated and they believe it had just been hit.  I couldn’t tear myself away from the coverage and sobbed as I watched the buildings collapse, realizing how many innocent firefighters, police officers, and citizens had been crushed.  I spoke with my aunt who had survived the first attack on the World Trade Center and found that she had safely gotten out on the last subway train.

In the hours to come I would drive to my university, located in a major military area. I would sit in front of the TV on campus, holding hands and watching the events unfold. I also remember calling my office, where I had just begun working in Emergency Management and being told: “Come in, NOW!”. I told my professors I didn’t know when I’d be back and drove towards Richmond. My then boyfriend, now husband was at school in Kentucky and I called him.  I was scared because I didn’t know where I was going or when I would be back. We made sure we said our “I love yous” and “be safe” because I also knew that he and other guys in the Fire Science program were trying to get to New York.

For three days we worked and waited. As the efforts at the Pentagon moved from rescue to recovery I remember the phone calls. I distinctly remember telling a staff member of the Governor’s Office that I couldn’t give him the names of the Virginians who had died in the attacks.  You know it’s the little things. At a certain point it became obvious to me that I would soon be headed to the Pentagon to support our deployed personnel.  That Friday I headed to Arlington. As we drove towards the Pentagon you map the approach of the plane to the Pentagon from the light poles that were knocked down. You could see the structure still smoking, knowing that there were people who would never make it home from work.

I remember everything from my 24 hours at the site. I remember the Arlington Fire Chief telling us that within our first four hours on site they had exploded multiple suspicious packages, arrested a man with a gun, and finally initiated security features. I remember getting credentialed by a man with an M-16. I remember being told that if I was seen taking pictures that my camera would be confiscated by a different man with an M-16. I remember the people: the people who offered help, food, comfort, hugs, clothing, anything. I remember the bus pulling onto the hill overlooking the Pentagon. As I watched, a large number of people got off the buses. I realized they were family members. Family members of those lost when the plane hit the Pentagon were holding a memorial service within view of the recovery team working. WHen the realization hit me that is what I was watching I had to turn away. Until then I’d been able to robot my way through. I had been given a task and was doing it. Those family members became the brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, mothers, and fathers of those lost and the reality was another smack in the face.

After my 24 hours I went home. We continued to support the events following the attack, but I didn’t go back. I sent more people, but never went back myself. In the past 11 years I’ve shed many tears over the events of 9/11. I become emotional when I think of the world my kids will never know. I become emotional when I think about the people who were lost. It took five years before I was able to drive past the Pentagon without seeing the images that I encountered while I was there. I read something today that made me agree. If you never forget, you never have to remember.  I can say that I will never forget 9/11 or the days that followed. I will never forget those emergency personnel and unsung heroes that saved countless lives. I have promised myself that unless physically unable to, I will participate in a memorial stair climb each year in honor of those firefighters who began the 110 story climb so many years ago and never came down.

So that’s my 9/11 story. Thank you for reading it and letting me share it (this is the first time I’ve ever put it in written word).  What’s your story?


Until next time…stay safe

A Great Training Opportunity

July 28, 2012 § Leave a comment

Each year the Virginia Office of EMS hosts an annual training symposium. This year marks the 33rd annual symposium. Class start on Wednesday and continue through Sunday. The courses focus on a variety of topics including Trauma, Crtical Care, Health and Safety, Critical Incident Stress Management,a nd Communications to name a few. While CEs are available for those providers within the state, there is no limit to who can register for the event. It’s a great training opportunity and one that shouldn’t be missed.

Registrationa nd course information can be found at: http://www.vdh.virginia.gov/OEMS/symposium/index.htm

Don’t miss a great opportunity, not just for training but also for networking, socializing, and hanging out with a great group of people!

While on vacation my thoughts travel to Colorado

July 20, 2012 § Leave a comment

As I sit on the balcony of my hotel room staring out at the ocean I can’t help my mind’s desire to wander to Aurora Colorado and the senseless act of violence that occurred. As I write this, 12 people have died and 59 people were injured. This is the largest MCI since the shooting at Fort ahold. There are bodies that haven’t been removed because of the I process. The apartment of the suspect can’t be entered because of the massive amounts of booby traps that he placed before he committed such a heinous crime. In the days, weeks, months and even years to come we will hear and read more information than our minds may be able to process. I know that there will be critiques and reviews, changes in procedure and lessons learned. We will her about those who were lucky enough to survive and learn about those who weren’t so lucky. I have so many thoughts about the incident and so much I want to learn about. I guess it is the EMS geek in me. That need to break things down and understand the process. As things unfold and the healing process begins for those impacted by the events I can only hope that those who additional help processing the events find it, that those who are injured receive the best care possible, and that those who have lost a loved one find the ability to heal.

I know that I will write about this incident more. Because, while unfortunate there will be things that we as EMS providers can take with us and use (though we hope to never have to). However, as I write about this incident I will do so without mentioning the suspects name. I do this because of the comment made by the brother of one of the victims. The brother, a firefighter paramedic, stated “let us remember the names of e victims and not the coward who committed is act”. So, that is what I choose to do.

Until next time…stay safe

Finding new direction

June 19, 2012 § Leave a comment

So, if you haven’t noticed it has been seriously quiet on here. I have absolutely no excuse except that something had to give and unfortunately it was my writing on the blog. Between FDIC, hospital rotations, field rotations, final exams, practical exams, baseball season, my sister’s graduation, a job interview, and well you get the point. My head is still spinning but we are actually getting into our “slow” season in our house. There are many things on the horizon including a new book (well chapters in a book), Firehouse Expo, some new articles, and thankfully new posts for the blog, and a few layout changes too

I am also working on a few giveaways, so keep your eyes open! Thanks for hanging in there with me!

Until next time…stay safe and don’t forget to follow on twitter @stickysidedwn.

Developing Mental Strength

April 23, 2012 § Leave a comment

The need for physical strength in what we do is obvious. The patients are getting larger, equipment heavier, and the need to be able to handle signficant physical aspects of the job continues to increase. However, how to do we develop that mental “toughness”. Those of who take on the job, whether fire, police, EMS, or other levels of emergency response/management, are often thought of to be a bit more mentally tough. unfortunately though, we aren’t all that tough. Like those outside of emergency services, we are impacted by the things we see and the people we interact with. It may take more than it would with someone NOT in the system, but it’s still going to come. 

So, what do we do to prepare for the sudden hit. How do we understand that we aren’t 100% made of steel?  Understand these are my thoughts, not ones that have been scientifically proven, just ways that get me through and have helped me.

Understand your triggers and prepare for them – i know the calls that I will be most impacted by. I have run them and been impacted by them before and because of that I’m able to better prepare myself for the next one.  I know that any call with a child, especially a young boy will be hard. Because I know that I’ll see my two boys in the patient.  Because of that I train harder on the pediatric issues.  It helps me stay focused on the treatment and the specific patient and keeps my mind from wandering to the “what-ifs”

Recognize your limits – When I first stated I used to run multiple nights and multiple different stations. I probably deserved the number of times I was called a squirrel. However as things changed in my life, I recognized the limits of my time, my ability, and most especially my mental strength. At a certain point you have to “step back”. in the volunteer world it’s a bit easier than the career side. But occasionally you have to take a day off, enjoy a vacation with the family. Even if you say “well I only work 10 days a month”, there is still an impact on you during those days and recognizing your limits BEFORE you get there is huge!

Train Like Your Life Depends on It – I know this seems a bit cliché, but training means that when you are on that call that throws you mentally, whether it’s the young child, a family member, a crew member, or whatever your trigger is, that you’ll be able to fall back to the basics, the training that you have to complete the job ahead of you. I can say this because I’ve used this one.  I’ve run calls of family members, both major and minor injuries. I’ve seen crew members who have had medical emergencies or been injured. Most importantly, I’ve had to treat my own children through illnesses and other problems. By having the strong basics skills that I do,  the impact of these situations ahs been much less than it would have bene had I not trained properly.

Know when to ask for help- Have you ever seen Bringing Out the Dead. I think Nicholas Cage truly embodies the image of burn out. He’s a man that recognizes he has gone over the edge, but continues to get on a truck. He is haunted by his demons, but continues to go out there and introduce himself to so many more. I don’t ever want to become that person. I don’t ever want to put myself in a position where I am doing more harm than good because I didn’t know when to ask for help. In a previous post I hit on the need to know where your help is and how to get it and I can’t stress that enough.  You need to know your resources BEFORE you need them!  And you need to recognize when you need help!  It’s not a sign of weakness to ask!

So, those are some ways I start and continue to build my mental strength and preparedness BEFORE the call. What works for you?  How do you prepare for the reality of the job you do?

Thanks for reading and until next time…stay safe and don’t forget to follow on twitter (@stickysidedwn).