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).


My Time At FDIC

April 22, 2012 § Leave a comment

So I started this post yesterday, but packing, traveling, and recovering definitely took priority, so here I sit Sunday night reflecting on this past week’s trip.  It’s funny that every year I attend I find myself having a different experience than any other year, but each year is still a GREAT experience!  This year’s focus was two-fold.  The first was introducing my father-in-law to the experience of Indianapolis and FDIC and the second was taking the opportunities given to me by Fire Engineering to share my thoughts and promote my book.

We arrived Tuesday and after checking in took an opportunity to check my computer and make sure it would be perfect for class.  Afterwards we took the opportunity to wander around and found my book on display at hte Fire Engineering booth!  There it was in all it’s glory!  I know that seems silly, but seeing my book on the shelf at a major trade show, really was a bit overwhelming!  We also found the sign that advertised my book signing opportunities. Honestly I think I was more impressed by the names that I was included with then with the fact that I was going to have a book signing.

Because of my schedule this week I wasn’t able to attend a large number of classes (only attended 1). I was able to help my husband get ready for his class (which was a smash hit). I was able to participate in a radio webcast with Mike McEvoy and Robert Raheb (I’ll share the link later). I was able to meet some amazing people! 

My first book signing was Thursday from 11-12.  Here I am:

It was an opportunity to put a face to a book. I actually had two people come and buy my book and ask for my autograph!  My class was Thursday night and was met with great reviews.  I taught on developing strong rehab operations and policies. I’m always happy to share information, but as happens in every class, I’m also just as happy to learn from my students. After class I went and got ready for the Courage and Valor 5K. I had set absolutely no expectations for the run, which was probably the best. I ended up walking some of it, but still finished in a decent time.  I was just happy to have participated in an event that raises money for a great cause and to bring focus to health initiatives for firefighters.

Friday we spent the day wandering through the exhibits. There is always new information, new products, and some great ideas. There are also lots of giveaways and contest to enter (which I LOVE doing).  Come one, you know we all love free stuff! It was nice to relax and take our time walking through. I had my second book signing and while I didn’t get an opportunity to sign any books, I was given a great opportunity to meet and talk to two fire service legends. Paul Combs (best known for his illustrations of issues in the fire service) and Battalion Chief Frank Montagna of FDNY.  These men have had a great impact and took the time to give me comments, ideas, and support for my book and future projects.  It really was an honor!

Saturday was leave time. We got up and did one last sweep through the exhibits. We packed, we entered one last contest, which my husband won and we went home.  The trip home became quite an experience (but that could be a whole separate post).  I’m happy to be home, but truly thankful for the experiences I had and people I interacted with.

I have a few more posts about the week that I’ll share throughout the next few weeks, but until next time…stay safe and don’t forget to follow on twitter (@stickysidedwn).

Friday Five – FDIC Five

April 13, 2012 § Leave a comment

So, given that FDIC is only three days away, and I leave next Tuesday (only five days from now) to participate, today’s post is dedicated to five things I hope to do/see/participate in during this year’s FDIC.

Top Five “To-Dos” For FDIC

1.  Teach My Class – This may seem like a simple concept, since that’s really why I’m going, but man do i look forward to teaching. I always come away from my classes feeling like I’ve met some great people, taken away some great ideas, and firmed up why I love doing what i do. The opportunity to teach to a national/international audience is a truly humbling experience and I love doing it each and every time.  If you are attending FDIC, my class is Thursday from 1:15-3:30 in Lucas Oil Stadium Room 10-12

2.  Take AMAZING classes – This conference is an amazing opportunity to take classes from nationally recognized names and from those people who are working their way to that status. It’s an opportunity to hear about programs and initiatives across the country that I might not have been exposed to. Fire Engineering has done a great job of finding a great mix of Emergency Management, Fire, and EMS training opportunities.

3.  Promote my Book – I don’t often like promoting myself, but Fire Engineering has given me a great opportunity two have two book signings during the conference. I will be available on Thursday from 11-12 and Friday from 1-2 to sign copies of my books.  If you already have a copy, bring it!  If you miss me at the Fire Engineering booth, stop me in the hallway and I’ll be happy to sign the book!

4.  Participate in some great events – This year I’m actually participating in the Courage and Valor 5k.  It’s a great opportunity to promote health, recognize a great Fire Service Leader, and hang out with great people.  My goal is to finish the event with a time that beats my split time from the 10K I just participated in, but other than that I look forward to running with some great people and being motivated to keep maintaining my health. Along with that event, I plan on attending the F.O.O.L.S. event on Wednesday night and watching the 9-11 memorial stair climb at Lucas Oil Stadium.

5.  Enjoying time with some amazing people.  Not just the ones I’ll be traveling with, though, but I also look forward to interacting with my fellow Fire and EMS service members, with the amazing employees of Fire Engineering who organize a great conference, meeting some new vendors, interacting with the people of Indianapolis, and truly just enjoying my time surrounded by a great city, wonderful people, and amazing opportunities.

This list may look corny, but this conference is truly a great event and I look forward to it each year!  If you haven’t been, you should definitely plan on attending next year.  The opportunities for learning and interaction are truly too many to number!

Are you going to FDIC?  If so, what are you looking forward to?

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

What Resources are Out There?

April 9, 2012 § Leave a comment

I thought about calling this mental monday, but figured that might not be appreciated by someone who stumbles on this post. Emergency services humor can be kind of sick and twisted to some. Sometimes that’s how we help ourselves and each other.And sometimes the best way to help ourselves is to ask for help from others. That’s when the question comes into play: “What resources are out there?” What do you have access to that can help you deal with the things we see on the job?

One of your first resources should be your company officer. unfortunately not everyone has the opportunity to turn to that person. Whether it’s because of personality conflict or other issues. When this happens, you should have a mentor. Someone who understands the job, someone who understands the situations that can arise. This mentor can be someone who is retired, works in a different department/different station, it doesn’t matter.

The next resource is interdepartmental. I believe that each department (whether individual stations or entire jurisdictions), should have a group of people who members can turn to. i wouldn’t call it a formal debriefing group, but this should serve a method for providers to go to someone they don’t work with on a daily basis. Or in cases where they do not have a mentor or are fairly new to the department, give them people who have training and experience to bounce feelings off of. They may not have formal training and should DEFINITELY be the person that others turn to in the leadership role (whether formal or informal), but they should be there and willing.

Another resource that is out there for help is much more related to the career side.  If your department (whether career or volunteer) has an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), this can provide you information and resources to assist with mental stress.  They are also able to provide assistance with substance abuse, financial concerns, legal concerns, and many other topics. Many departments offer EAPs that provide a few sessions for free, which should definitely assist in getting people to seek help.

Another resources you need to look into is the International Association of Critical Incident Stress Management. Not only do they provide trainings across the country, they also have access to the CISM points of contact for EVERY state.  This can help you find CISM teams after a major incident that might have you looking to conduct a debriefing.

I hope that you NEVER have to access the resources that I’ve mentioned, or other resources that you have in your department. However, you should always have quick access to the resources, should the time come that you do need.

I’d be interested in knowing what other resources you have at your fingertips.  Leave me a comment!

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

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