We all wear armor.
Many want to believe we wear our hearts on our sleeves while on the job, but is this possible? Can we be connected to our emotions and effectively do our job? Is armoring up a survival tactic?
Armor can show up for us all differently depending on our coping preferences. There are many styles of armor: cynical armor, humorous armor, quiet focused armor, “I’m better than everybody” armor, sick humor armor, puff out your chest armor, anger armor, bury your feelings armor and the list goes on. Below you’ll find a short blog about a recent experience that put into motion my quest to blog and understand more about emotional armor in emergency medical first responders. Please feel free to comment below and share your experiences.
Our patient is in cardiac arrest. There’s a sense of relief relayed about our arrival on scene. Staff peered at us with sadness as we get our equipment prepared. It’s clear that this patient’s medical emergency caught everyone off guard. I can feel the energy in the room. It’s clear that this skilled nursing facility had a bond with this patient. An air of hope is coming from their corner of the room. With a heavy heart, I feel as if I am alone in knowing that this patient has already left their body peacefully. During the resuscitation attempt I notice a very young face peering at me from the corner of the room. She appears to be a nurses assistant and is intently watching me. Our resuscitation attempt leaves our patient in a continued state of peace.
After sitting down with family on scene to answer questions I see this young lady again as I traverse the hallway. She again is watching me intently and smiles. I smile back and say hello in a friendly manner. I then proceed to complete paperwork and notice this same young lady standing in the hallway watching the family grieve. It’s as if she is watching this take place for the first time. I notice her smile has gone. There is an uneasiness about her. My armor allows me to continue with my duties.
Amidst burying my head in paperwork I look up to see this young lady standing across from me with tears streaming down her face. I stand from my chair with hesitation, my armor is heavy. She then bursts into tears and staff rushes to her side to comfort her as I stand paralyzed. I want to go over to her but my armor is too heavy. A staff member standing next to me explains that she is new to her position and also new to healthcare. She explains that this was her first death and assured me that she would be alright.
I stood there and watched her walk down the hallway crying. I felt sadness and admiration. This young lady was having a normal reaction to loss and was embarrassed by her natural response. She felt vulnerable and was trying to hide her feelings as we often do. I wanted to run down the hallway and give her big hug. I wanted to tell her not to ever hide her empathy and compassion. I wanted to cry with her and assure her it was honorable to see her humanity. But I didn’t....... my armor was too heavy.