Friday, December 9, 2011

Drawing a Blank

I'm drawing a blank here.
I had an idea earlier for what I wanted to write about, and had started to organize it in my head, but I can't for the life of me remember what it was.
I need to go to work in a few minutes, so I don't have long to try to either remember or come up with something, but the harder I try to think of something, the less comes to mind.

Still nothing.
It sucks, too, because I've kept going posting every day for 38 days now. I really wanted to continue that, and if I miss one day, I might slip right back into old habits and stop posting entirely.

I can almost remember what I wanted to write about, but not... quite. Like it's on the tip of my proverbial tongue, but in writing. And the more I try to focus, the further away it slips.

Not really. :-)

But it HAS happened to me, and if I had to bet, it has happened to you, too.
That moment when suddenly, under stress, your mind goes completely blank, and you probably couldn't remember your name, if asked.

It happened to me at my first EMT-B practical exam. Walked in the room to start the medical assessment, and went totally, completely, blank. Deer in the headlights blank.  Fortunately, I had a few minutes to get my head back together, and I did fine, but it wasn't nearly as smooth as I had planned.

The question is, how do you recover from this? How do you get back on track if you blank on something? We work in a high stress and often, high risk environment, and "going blank" isn't an option. It just isn't. But we're all human.

Here are some ideas:

1. Write it down.

This comes into play in two ways.  The first is that writing something down creates a stronger memory of the thing, and, if you're a visually oriented person (most people are) it adds a visual component. Sometimes, when you need to remember something, you can just close your eyes and see the words.

Another way writing something down helps is to create some written tools for yourself. For example, we have the BLS med protocols for our region printed up and laminated, prominently placed in our equipment bag. So it's right there. We can't blank on remembering the protocols if we have them easily accessible, right with us.  Other ideas might be pocket cards, or any other memory aid that works for you. The instructors in my Basic class were fond of wide strips of tape to write things on while on scene. Easy to use, easy to dispose of.

2. Practice a lot.

You had to know I'd say that, but it's true. Practice past the point of competence, to the point of mastery. A competent person practices something until they get it right; a master practices until they can't get it wrong.

3. Practice WITH YOUR PARTNER, so you have each others' back. Come up with cues to help someone get back on track.  Be ready to step in with the right question to continue the assessment, or to remind your partner to put oxygen on the patient, or whatever might be necessary. Instead of having one person do all the patient care, while the other carries stuff or drives, or whatever, learn to work AS A TEAM. Become excellent assistants. Learn to tag team.

4. Mnemonics help some people. If you're one of them, OPQRST yourself to your heart's content. EMS is full of them, so learn them and use them. Make up your own, if they work better.

I'm sure there are more ways- feel free to suggest your favorites.

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