“Caroline, I think I’m having a heart attack”
STOP EVERYTHING YOU ARE DOING.
At that moment responding to an emergency seems like the scariest thing in the world. Your adrenaline is pumping. Your brain is focused. Your nervous system is now communicating with you. What do you choose?
Fight or Flight
During my time as a housefellow, I’ve had many emotional conversations with residents: family members dying, rape, abuse, stalking, suicide ideation, and medical issues. At the beginning of summer training, we used to dread training for these situations. It was called Behind Closed Doors (BCD). The training focused on teaching new Housefellows how to react to a particular situation — loud residents, disrespectful graffiti, medical situation, and a stalk/rape/suicide case. The situations went from not so hard, to really hard, really fast. It’s stressful to have your peers watching you, and judging you in real-time. But trust me IT’S SO WORTH IT. Working out the kinks of how you approach a situation in a low-stakes environment will give you the confidence and key skills for the real thing.
In the moment of a crisis, there are a couple of things that run through your (my) mind…
- I want to run away
- I can’t run away
- It’s my duty (job/morally)
- I don’t want to get involved
- I need to get involved
- Okay — I’m present and involved.
You are not a terrible person if you aren’t jumping in the second something happens. The human species couldn’t have gotten this far if we jumped into dangerous situations willingly. Our hesitation not to get involved is NATURAL. But if you have the proper training and the skills to help, you SHOULD HELP. You could be saving a life in the process.
So here are a couple of must-haves to have when you come face to face with a scary situation.
- Stay calm and be confident
It’s cliche but essential. You might be freaking out inside and a million different scenarios are running through your head. It’s important to remember that you are now the person dealing with this. So be the leader — and deal with it.
If I were the one having the emergency, I’d want someone who oozes confidence in a calm fashion — taking charge and bringing me to where I need to be — safely. When you are not calm you could make everything worse. Be it just a heart attack, panic attack, a fall from the top off the top of the bunk bed, or a fire. Whatever it is. We need to remember to show people you can and will handle it with little drama.
- Don’t forget your training
We don’t come out of training and hope that someone knocks on our door with a case. It isn’t like that. Handling a situation is a lot of paperwork, as well as emotional and sometimes physical work. We hope it doesn’t happen, and we train as if it were to happen every day. Some house fellows get lucky, and never deal with any type of situation…. At all. Some house fellows have streaks where they are submitting reports left and right (me).
We are trained for a reason — but we aren’t perfect. As time goes on, and we don’t face any events, our skills can get rusty — and our memory… a tad foggy. I don’t remember all the steps of what I need to do when we report someone for alcohol or drugs — but I do know that if I am ever in need, I can call my manager. Day or night. I will call my manager, tell them what is happening, how I plan on dealing with it and ask them to confirm for me if they agree with my plan. If not — we make edits as we go and make sure we both agree on this game plan. Then we execute.
- If you can get help GET HELP
It’s overwhelming to handle things on your own — so don’t! Find someone you trust and know that can help you. There is a reason first responders travel in pairs/groups. You aren’t meant to take that emotional and physical burden alone! Call your people — they will come running to help you — I promise.
If I ever felt like this is too much for me to handle, if someone could get hurt, if I could get hurt — I always called university police. ALWAYS. It didn’t matter if it was the right thing or not to do at the time — what mattered was I needed back up and I could trust that they would help me in this situation that felt too big for me.
There isn’t anything scarier than to have to wait for someone — but it’s better when you don’t have to do it alone. Emergency situations can pop up at any time — and with that, you want to make sure you are confident, trained, and never (NEVER) be too shy to call for help. You probably won’t get it 100% by yourself the first time, or even the fifth time — but over time you will get better, more confident, and find yourself in a more secure place to help people.