The hardest part about emergency trauma care is managing the chaos that tends to invade every situation. Basic first aid is surprisingly simple, but the nature of it being an emergency rachets up the stress and quickly makes those simple things surprisingly difficult.
So, since the hard part of emergencies is really just about managing high levels of stress, how can we be more effective first responders?
Professionals are no different then you, they just have better methods of managing the stress. Let’s look at some of the ways to prevent being overwhelmed when everything and everyone around you seems to be falling apart.
How to Make a Quick Plan
Many times, first responders have been notified of a medical emergency and they begin moving to the location of the casualty. You could be miles away in a police car, or you could be running from only a short distance.
However far away you are, use the time it takes you to get to the casualty to begin forming a plan in your mind. To do this well, information is key. The more information you can get, the better prepared you will be mentally.
One of the most important pieces of the puzzle is the “Mechanism of Injury” (how were they hurt).
This is very important and always considered in EMS. How the casualty was injured indicates potential wounds and problems that must be accounted for. This helps to free you up because it can remove a lot of options from the table and narrow down on the right course of action.
Here's what I mean:
You are notified that a coworker was cut by some glass after they slipped and fell, and now is bleeding heavily from a large cut to the inside of their bicep, and a small bleed on the forehead. You grab your trauma kit and begin running to Warehouse B17 about 200 yards hundred yards away. On the way you start planning.
This is what you know:
- There is no active threat. No potential violence, no environmental threats, etc. The scene is probably safe but still be heads up. Take a careful look around you on approach.
- The report of heavy bleeding makes that your primary concern because you are trained and know uncontrolled bleeding is the most urgent. You think about where your CAT tourniquet is located in your medical kit and briefly rehearse the arm application in your mind. You make a mental note to closely observe the casualty for signs of shock and to treat for hypothermia because of blood loss.
- You also know getting EMS to the scene is extremely important. You calmly shout to a bystander as you run by and instruct them to call 911, flag down the ambulance when it arrives, and escort the medics to Warehouse B17.
- The casualty fell. This is not the primary concern at this stage in the planning, bleeding is, of course. But after you’ve swiftly stopped it, you remind yourself to consider spinal injuries. The report of a head wound supports this. A fall could also mean fractures elsewhere on the body. You keep the potential for broken bones in the back of your mind.
Of course, not everything will go according to plan. But since you have a good baseline idea of what you might do, small adjustments here and there will be quicker and easier and the day is saved thanks to your cool head and making a quick plan on the fly.
Knowing what to do is the most important part of preparation. Without the skills you won’t have the tools you need to make a workable plan. If you have the equipment, but don’t know how to use it correctly, there’s a good chance you won’t help. Yes, good gear is valuable, but skills are what saves the day. Our online course, Emergency Trauma Response, is now completely free.
Come back next week for the part 2 of How To handle an Emergency Like a Pro for a few more tips.