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Life Support By Mike Rubin, BS, NREMT-P Critical Care Compassion won’t weaken us as providers—in fact, it’s often what we need Some calls stay with us longer than others. You know what providing comfort, all I did was listen to her and, occasionally, I mean. respond. Care was secondary to caring—a new concept for My patient was a 50-ish female complaining of…well, me that seemed to work for both of us. she wasn’t really complaining about anything. I found her Do feelings interfere with our performance? Many of contracted in bed with animated eyes and a sly smile. I my colleagues would respond afﬁrmatively. The “John learned from her daughter that mom had spina biﬁda and Wayne” culture of essential services discourages emotion. was in constant pain. She also seemed to be a little short Expressions of empathy for patients frequently are regarded of breath. When I announced, after a brief exam, that her as weaknesses to be wrung out of providers during primary fever and congestion could be signs of pneumonia, my training. Failure to recognize a middle ground between patient exclaimed that she would gladly tolerate any illness ineffectual sentimentality and robotic comportment leads responsible for attracting such a handsome man to her to reinforcement of the Spartan self-image some of us bedroom. cultivate. We are beginning to understand, however, that I think she caught me looking around for a handsome man. stoicism is less healthy than prompt, informal discussion of She tugged at my hand to regain my attention, then told me acute stressors with family and friends. I reminded her of her late husband, except he wasn’t bald. None of the people I know who resigned after years of “was Care Her mischievous expression dissolved during a coughing ﬁt, but returned when I promised to carry her from her bed to our stretcher. As I lifted her scoliotic frame, she asked if that unhappiness in EMS blamed “caring too much” for their career change. Quite the opposite: Most of them complained of apathy, accompanied by a sense of hopelessness. Perhaps meant we were engaged. a more robust support structure would have reassured them secondary I transported her a second time after her illness had that they still could make a difference, one patient at a to caring progressed. We indulged in the same playful banter just time. days before she died. I learned of the outcome when her It would be naive to portray all of our customers as selﬂess —a new daughter and I nearly sideswiped each other’s shopping romantics who see us as their spiritual guides. Some merely concept carts in a supermarket aisle. I was surprised at how many want the facts—and maybe a sliver of speculation—about
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