As a trained first aider, you will eventually encounter and provide care for
difficult first aid situations. These situations can be emotionally taxing, especially if you are not used with such high stress situation or if it is your first time to handle an emergency situation. Most first aiders experience a wide range of emotions – from fear to satisfaction to grief. It is not uncommon to think that they did not do a good job or that they did not effectively carry out their role. If not addressed properly, this can lead to emotional problems, such as self-blaming, in the future. Therefore, it is important that you put some time aside for yourself.
First aid training programs, such as those offered by St Mark James, provide inputs on how first aiders should handle their emotions during and after handling first aid situations.
When you think about how you managed the incident, you should remember that the mere act of stepping forward and offering help during the emergency situation is a critical life-saving act. Do not belittle or blame yourself or think that you failed in providing first aid treatment. You should realize the fact that even if you did your best to save as much casualties as you can, you can end up unsuccessful in helping others.
To effectively deal with these emotions, give yourself a break. Get a cup of tea and relax. Avoid isolating yourself from others. Speak up what’s on your mind. Talk with a friend, family member, colleagues or peers. Releasing your pent up emotions can help keep you in check. When you go over how you handled the emergency, be realistic with your expectations. The key is to stay relaxed.
Immediately after the crisis situation, you should dedicate your time cleaning up the scene and equipment. Discard used equipment and supplies properly. If you used your first aid kit or emergency supply, restock your used first aid kit.
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder
The danger of developing post-traumatic stress disorder is ever present for first-aiders. Major accidents, especially those with serious, sometimes fatal, outcomes, can be emotionally traumatic although at the time of accident you may feel more focused and concentrated due to adrenaline rush. Many people, even experienced first-aiders, may experience a wide range of emotional responses long after the event is over. If not managed well, these emotions can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD may result after a life-threatening ordeal involving physical harm, a real threat to safety, or after witnessing a life-threatening event.
Stress debriefing is an effective way of managing the emotions that you have gone through while providing first aid. In this process, the first aider is guided through a series of counselling and help therapy on how to manage emotions after responding to a major accident. You can talk with your healthcare provider or peers about any recurrent ideas of the incident.