Not long ago, I saw a question from someone who was in the early phase of EMT school. He wanted to know how experienced EMS workers deal with death on the job. He also wanted to know what he could expect concerning crying on the job. That's right....
This is what I wrote back to the lad. What would you say?
Question: How do you guys deal with deaths on the job?
Answer: You do your job. Death is a part of that job. You do what you are trained to do.
Seeing a lot of death can and will change you profoundly though. You think about it, talk about it, reason and rationalize, form your own opinions and beliefs, develop your own personal way of dealing with it, and then you pack it away in a nice safe place...because here comes another one.
Personally, this is how I deal with death on the job. I drink 7 or 8 big bottles of booze, spike my hair with grease, and run naked across the field in sports stadiums filled with people.
I've found that trying to outrun 10 or 20 cops is a good physical outlet for my stress. And...BONUS...after you get tazed six or thirty times, you sober right up and there's no hangover. But hey, that's just me. Everyone needs to find their own way of dealing with workplace death.
Of course, I told the kid, "I'm kidding! I never spike my hair."
This is EMS Life Lesson #482. "You cannot take yourself, or life, too seriously. You gotta have a sense of humor. If you don't, nobody will want to work with you, and you won't be around long."
Question: Do you cry on scene if someone dies? Maybe a young kid?
Answer: I used to cry on the job almost every day-every time I paid for a meal, stuck food in the microwave, or was about to put food in my mouth, and we would get a call.
Did I cry on scene? Wha...ah...NO! I usually waited until late at night, when I was all alone. Oh, and it had to be very dark, because I make some really stupid weird faces when I cry. We all have to let our emotions out. But nothing says I have to watch myself do it.
Question: Have you cried on scene?
Answer: What kind of TV shows are you watching? Have I cried on scene...what the...NO! I mean I did that one time when a tiny little female patient kicked me in the nuts so damn hard, I still don't know where my left testicle went.
No. If I ever started choking up, I shut it down hard and fast. If you're thinking so much about what's going on that it's making you want to cry...then you're not busy enough, you're not doing your job, you're not focused on patient care enough, or staying twenty steps ahead of everyone else. Like my Dad used to say, "I'll give you something to cry about!"
Question: Are you allowed to cry or tear up anyways... on scene, or in the back of the ambulance when dealing with patients?
Answer: Allowed? If your partners, and the people you work with, don't understand that having leaky eyes is natural, that's it is healthy, and that at some point, everyone needs to let it out, then there's something wrong with them.
Don't get me wrong, if someone is sobbing and blubbering all over the place, 3 or 4 times a week, then yea, I think they need to wee wee wee themselves all the way into another profession.
Death and taxes dude, death and taxes.