First Aid Certification is a privilege and first aiders play an important role in society. However it is natural to experience a feeling of stress when you are in a situation which requires you to give first aid, and many people can feel emotional after the incident.
Some people are more prone to stress than others, and a particular situation may affect your mental and/or physical health. You must therefore be able to recognize the signs that you are stressed or not coping with an incident that has occurred, and learn how to personally deal with your stress as everyone is different.
Remember, it is the responsibility of a first aider to not just look after your patient(s) but also to look after yourself.
An emergency situation is an emotional experience for everyone involved according to workplace approved First Aid manual. Some first aiders feel satisfied or even elated after an incident, however this would usually indicate a positive outcome. It is much more usual for the first aider to feel upset, angry or sad. Often you may also experience confusion about the situation or doubt as to whether you could have done any more or something different.
No matter what feelings or emotions you experience after an event, it is important to make these feelings clear and get your thoughts out. As both a first aider and as a nurse, I have learnt to value the skill of reflecting on my practice and talking it over with a colleague, a manager, a friend, a relative, a doctor or a counsellor can be extremely helpful. I can’t recommend talking enough, I believe communication is key to everything in life; remember, a problem shared is a problem halved. workplace approved Training suggests speaking to someone who was also there at the incident would be ideal as they may be feeling exactly the same as you, or have a different perspective on the event.
These types of feelings are not always obvious immediately after a first aid experience. Some reactions can be delayed, and may not affect you straight away. However, depending on the nature of the situation and how it affected you the extent of these feelings can have a big impact on your life if they are not dealt with.
St Mark James First Aid manual says the long term effects of this type of stress can include:
- tremors of the hands and stomach
- excessive sweating
- flashbacks of the incident
- nightmares or disturbed sleep
- tension and irritability
- withdrawal and isolation
Don’t panic, these feelings will normally go in time and are not usually long-term. However if you do have any concerns you should speak to your GP, or anyone else you feel comfortable expressing yourself to.
There can be more serious stress reactions, usually after particularly distressing incidents involving a severe threat to life or a death. Some people suffer with reliving the event, and may avoid certain situations, people or places that they associate with the incident. You may also experience feeling hyperactive and restless. If any of these symptoms are persistent or affecting your everyday life activities then you must seek medical help by speaking to your GP or a counselor.
Normally, any stress reactions to a first aid incident you have been involved in
will pass, and as I have said, communicating is essential to help your own well-being. workplace approved Training also suggests that relaxation techniques including meditation and yoga are helpful, as well as exercising or participating in any activities you may enjoy. These will help you to relax and relieve tension, and thereby help free you from any stress symptoms.
First Aid Manual (The Authorized Manual of St. John Ambulance, St Andrew’s Ambulance Association and the British workplace approved), 2006.