As the COVID-19 pandemic stretches our nation’s paramedic services to never-seen limits, I fear for my colleagues. I fear they are being continually exposed to the dangers of a pandemic environment. I fear they are experiencing longer shifts and excessive overtime requirements. I fear they are sleeping less, eating poorly, and quadrupling their caffeine intake. I fear this situational stress is exponentially increasing stress on our families, our significant others, and us.
Paramedical professionals already have excessively high burnout and suicide rates attributed to the stressors we experience in the performance of a profession we deeply love. Yet as we work hand in hand with our fellow healthcare providers to support our communities and fight the devastation caused by COVID-19, we may neglect our own well-being. I fear this sacrifice will have long-lasting devastating effects on my professional brothers and sisters.
Social distancing should not mean social isolation. If you are feeling overwhelming pressure and stress, please ask for help—talk to someone. If you see a colleague struggling, don’t be afraid to step in to support and help them.
It is our calling to step into chaos and bring about the calm—for our families, for our communities, and for our country. To bring about that calm, we need to be at our best, rested and refreshed.
A few suggestions to help with rest, relaxation, and recharging during the pandemic event:
Daily exercise is a positive means to reduce stress—sweat it out;
Make time for comfortable sleep;
Eat food that is nutritious and nurtures your body and mind;
Try some of your mother’s or grandmother’s recipes—my go-to is baked ziti with my grandma’s meatballs;
Make quality time with your significant other a priority;
Wrap your arms around your significant other and tell them how much you love them;
Video chat with your adult children and grandchildren;
Play online trivia or multiplayer Internet games;
Skip the news and watch something else—something funny that will raise your spirits. Maybe Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s Disney movies or something with Adam Sandler;
Avoid alcohol and other mind-altering substances;
Participate in peer-support programs—they can help you talk it out.
If it gets tough, you get tougher. Don’t hesitate to ask for help—even professional help.
John Todaro, BA, NRP, RN, TNS, NCEE, is cardiac arrest system assessment program manager for Resuscitation Quality Improvement Partners, Tampa, Fla. He is a member of the EMS World editorial advisory board.