I recently saw this post from The EMS Patient Perspective, about being reminded of his worst call ever.
The first really bad call we went to, no one talked to us about afterwards. I don't know why. Maybe they didn't think about it being the first major trauma for us brand new EMTs. Or maybe the officers who weren't there didn't think about anyone who was there needing any help, because they weren't feeling any effects of what they didn't see.
Shortly thereafter, we had our second "bad call."
For me, it wasn't anywhere near as traumatic as the other one.
For some reason, the chiefs decided we needed an official CISD for this one.
Some people we didn't know came in to talk about the incident. They explained that this was for people who were at the call, but still included officers who weren't there. I don't know why. Maybe the officers wanted some sort of personal involvement so they would know what happened?
The purpose of the debriefing is supposed to be so everyone can talk about the incident in a non-judgmental environment. Unfortunately, that isn't what happened.
Anyhow. That's not the point I want to make in this post.
The trained guy who came in mentioned something to us that I took away from the meeting that I think is both important, and interesting.
He said that we would have "triggers" that would affect us for a long time, possibly years to come. That there was no way to predict what they might be, but that we should expect it to happen. Some little detail that we may not even have been consciously aware of would be connected, in our minds, with what we had witnessed, and when we came across something similar the next time, it had the potential to throw us back into an emotional state connected to the earlier scene, rather than the current scene.
At first, it was an intellectually interesting concept.
Then it started happening.
The first time it happened, something at a scene freaked one of us out, who then needed to withdraw from the scene and let others take over. It was communicated well and went smoothly, not affecting patient care at all, so wasn't a problem, but it clearly alerted us that this "trigger" thing was very, very real.
Over time, I've learned what some of the things are that trigger me. None have made me have to back out of a scene, at least not yet. Mostly, they have happened places other than calls.
A short list:
Glass storm doors.
A woman with a blanket over her lap.
White metal outdoor furniture.
A bed set up in the living room of a trailer.
A couple of specific songs on the radio.
I'm sure there are more that I haven't tripped on yet.
The brain is so fascinating, in all the ways it tries to protect us. They don't always work, but the brain keeps trying.
We try to be aware of what triggers each other, so we can be ready to shift roles if necessary. So far, it has worked well.