Becoming desensitized- what's your story?

joshrunkle35

Forum Asst. Chief
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My experience is that some things never bother me and some things do.

I’ve done CPR on someone and been thinking about what to get for lunch. On the other hand, I’ve watched a baby die in someone else’s arms on a call I was barely connected to and went home and drank beers in the bathtub asking God why stuff like this is allowed to happen. There’s not really a good predictor about which stuff will effect you and when it will get to you.

It’s completely ok to be unexpectedly traumatized by something and need to reach out for help after a call. It’s not that great to become an extra person who needs to be taken care of during a call.

Not all EMS positions require you to witness terrible things. All of them require you to give your very best when someone needs it.
 

CALEMT

The Other Guy/ Paramaybe?
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You either handle it or not.
Kinda piggybacking off of this either you have the psychological mentality to handle something or you don't. Unfortunately coworkers/ friends/ family can't tell what you're going through, you have to be the one to initiate help. At one point or another everyone is going to need help with something in this career field.

As far as becoming desensitized theres really no set period. For me it started at a young age (16 being an explorer riding out) seeing this stuff and after awhile it just doesn't really phase me anymore. Of course there are some things out there that just downright suck I.e. anything involving children, but "gore" and stuff like that to me it is what it is, nothing more nothing less.
 

RedBlanketRunner

Opheophagus Hannah Cuddler
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The absolute last thing I want to do right after a rough call is talk about it with people I don't choose. Doubly so if they weren't present. Some things I would rather just go home with and come up with my own strategy for.
Being somewhat a hermit and a loner I can certainly relate. I'm a wallflower at those talk down sessions. I've seen some positive effects from mumbling and muttering to group hugs and support to driving some others into a reserved silence.
Obviously we are all different and how we cope is very much a personal matter, forged in part by our upbringing especially during our formative years. Taking that into account I would agree. Forced group therapy sessions can do as much harm as good.
My own release is hiking in the wilderness and maybe some yelling at the distant horizon.


I would point out, 'desensitized' can be a deadly trap as any psyche student can tell you. Coping and collected or a bomb waiting to explode?
 
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EMDispatch

IAED EMD-Q/EMT
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In the comm center I’m very quick to caution people when they come into interview for a position and say they can handle trauma.

You never know whether something is going to stay with you. We all become not necessarily desensitized, but able to work past what we see, smell, and hear. But you just never know. In both my field and console time I’ve had more than I care for. That’s why we provide access to services, and provide reminders about mental health.
 

NomadicMedic

EMS Edumacator
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The most difficult thing I have to cope with at my job is telling someone their spouse or son or daughter has died. That never gets easier, and it seems like it weighs on me more and more. As one of the older guys, I’m often the one that speaks with the family. Explain what’s happening during a resuscitation and I watch them suddenly realize that this is the last time their wife or son will ever be in their home. It’s tough. It never gets easier. It has nothing to do with blood or gore. It’s all about empathy and compassion, and that something you can’t teach to people.
 

justin1232

Forum Lieutenant
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I was pretty stressed when I saw traumatic injuries and legit medical emergency’s when I first became and EMT. I would get tunnel vision almost every time.
Then I got a job working in a OR for a level one trauma center. Almost 3 years of working here now and I can easily stare into the open chest cavity of a gunshot victim while talking about what I’m eating for dinner.
I think it was just the non stop exposure of trauma that got me so use to it. Went and did medic internship and even surprised myself how calm and collected I was on scene compared to how I use to be as an EMT.
 

johnrsemt

Forum Deputy Chief
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When I worked in Indiana and worked busy Private service and busy 911 service; nothing really bothered me much.
When I left there and moved west to a military base where it is great pay and benefits, but super slow: things started bothering me, but not the runs, but the lack of runs.
I started having nightmares about old runs. and finally needed to get counseling.
Started working PT at a 911 service that is a lot busier (and 120 miles away from home {and half the runs are in the same county and state}) and closest hospital is 120 miles away. That has actually helped more than the counseling did.
 

ffemt8978

Forum Vice-Principal
Community Leader
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I actually walked away from EMS because I was getting desensitized to it. Found it was detrimental to what little empathy I had. I wasn't a gore junkie, but it no longer bothered me.
 

firecoins

IFT Puppet
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I’ve handled some gruesome calls. That being said, I was too busy working to “handle it” if That makes any sense.
 

ffemt8978

Forum Vice-Principal
Community Leader
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I’ve handled some gruesome calls. That being said, I was too busy working to “handle it” if That makes any sense.
Being able to set aside the gore during the call and focusing on your patient is good thing. The issue for most is what lingers after the call is over.
 

RedBlanketRunner

Opheophagus Hannah Cuddler
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Yes, another war story. But on base.
We got called to the scene where a unit had responded to a few minutes earlier. Chaos. The first unit had parked in front of a dilapidated building. One person went in to search for a patient. A truck came in and T boned the unit, smashing it into the front of the building. We attended to the unit driver, seriously injured. A FF called me over around the building. The first unit attendant was sitting on the ground. FFs had dragged her out of the rubble. Concussion + LOC. State of near hysteria, hyperventilating. She had regained consciousness and found herself trapped. In her words 'a nighhtmare where I couldn't wake up. Didn't know where I was, what was happening or how I got there'.

Both those EMTs quit because of the incident. Just couldn't let go of the mental traumas. It's not just the gore. Sudden trauma from any quarter can hit hard and be very difficult to let go.
 

CALEMT

The Other Guy/ Paramaybe?
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Sees that RedBlanketRunner has responded to a thread that I am watching only to wonder what the next story is... I guess this one at least pertains to the topic, although given the post history I question the legitimacy of the war story.

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