I have my dream job, except for one little tiny thing....
January 10, 2017 11:27 AM   Subscribe

A few months ago, I was promoted to being the EHS (Environmental, Health and Safety) manager at my general-industry factory. Other than just having personal interest and volunteering for all of the teams, auditors, etc, this is my first job in this field. I find that I'm having difficulty with a fairly important part of the job: dealing with blood and injuries. How can I tame my instinct to be squeamish and shudder/look away?

I don't have to deal with many injuries at this site, but it is my responsibility to do the following things where I run into this issue: look at an injury and determine whether or not the person should be sent to a clinic (for example, for stitches if they cut themselves); be a first responder (certified CPR, AED, basic first aid); read and pass along major safety incidents at sister plants (these can be quite gruesome, with amputations, death, etc); run safety training sessions where the materials can have some graphic images; and document all safety issues here, which involves taking pictures of the injury if one occurs.

I'm more concerned about situations where I need to remain calm, cool, and collected in order to help someone out, than I am with doing training or reading things. Clearly the former is more important.

FWIW, this problem seems to have gotten worse as I've gotten older. I used to watch horror movies and medical processes with abandon; now, I can barely look at a skinned knuckle without remembering to breathe. What can I do to build up some toughness here?
posted by Fig to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I bet you'll surprise yourself when it comes down to it. (If you're at all anxious or control-oriented especially.) I'm pretty squeamish (super squeamish, actually), but when emergency situations have happened, things have just clicked into gear. I just found myself doing whatever PSA messaging or training's gotten into my head.
posted by cotton dress sock at 11:47 AM on January 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

(Like you just see that someone's in trouble and that X needs to be done, so you do it.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 11:52 AM on January 10, 2017

Watch youtube videos of medical procedures and practice breathing and staying calm while you watch them. Start with something small and work your way up to more graphic videos.
posted by ilovewinter at 11:54 AM on January 10, 2017 [4 favorites]

So you know in NASA movies when things go wrong and everyone is given a perfect opportunity to panic but someone level headed speaks up and says, "let's work the problem"? That is exactly what you should do, is work the problem. Break the scene down into small, solvable increments and talk through the plan--it'll help calm you down and it'll help calm down the person you're helping, because cool, collected, competent people work problems.

If you feel gurge starting to rise, talk through it. "Okay, let's see what we have here." If you need to look away from the injury, make eye contact with the injured person or another person nearby, not up to the sky or down in disgust. Ask for help and give people jobs, if you can. "Vanessa, can you please find something to support his head." That sort of thing.

Don't fill the space with inane chatter, of course, but simply stating what you're going to do, what you're doing, and what you just did will help both you and the person you're helping stay calm and focused.

Like cotton dress sock says, though, I'm sure you'll do fine. When you're prepared for things to go wrong, you switch into gear without even realizing it.
posted by phunniemee at 11:57 AM on January 10, 2017 [3 favorites]

Is there some kind of training your employer would send you to where you would practice dealing with some of the scenarios you anticipate? I would think that the more you train, the more "automatic" your response becomes.
posted by John Borrowman at 12:15 PM on January 10, 2017

The app Figure 1 might be helpful, if you decide to go the desensitizing route. Lots of injuries from mild dislocations to really gruesome motor vehicle accidents.
posted by fiercecupcake at 12:26 PM on January 10, 2017

I'm more concerned about situations where I need to remain calm, cool, and collected in order to help someone out, than I am with doing training or reading things.

If you know in detail what you're looking for, then you will be looking for that, rather than looking at the injury.

For example, if you're looking at a cut in a hurry, and you know you need to look at length, whether adipose tissue is visible, the rate at which it's bleeding, and also quickly assess whether the person is pale, how quickly they are breathing, whether they are showing signs of dizziness or nausea (and know specifically what those signs are), a quick checklist for signs of other injuries, a checklist for how conditions have been left on the floor -- to make sure no one else gets injured -- etc., then I think you might be too busy to be bothered.
posted by amtho at 12:34 PM on January 10, 2017 [5 favorites]

I used to watch horror movies and medical processes with abandon; now, I can barely look at a skinned knuckle without remembering to breathe.

This makes me wonder if you have (developed) blood sugar issues.

I had terrible blood sugar issues when I was younger and I was a squeamish, anxiety-ridden mess. My blood sugar is more stable and so is my emotional state, tolerance for various kinds of stress (including medical gore) -- at least most of the time. I have a serious medical condition and, on a bad day, I can turn back into an overly sensitive mess who can't cope with much of anything and just wants to hide under a rock.
posted by Michele in California at 1:38 PM on January 10, 2017

Are you a hands-on learner? Maybe create and practice "dry-run" scenarios. Getting in repititions should help with your cool, calm and collection.

Nthing amtho's approach. Identifying the problem and creating solutions.
posted by mountainblue at 3:16 PM on January 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

Do you have a decompression process? You can get secondary trauma from witnessing injuries, and if you have been fine with this until recently perhaps it's some accumulation or a personal experience of physical pain that is making these regular experiences feel overwhelming. Having a routine to destress or a person you trust like a colleague with a similar frame of mind (or sense of humor - there's a reason high stress jobs often have very bleak humor) to talk through the experience helps.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 4:53 PM on January 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

So, I had an opportunity to test my reaction when a coworker got a pretty bad cut yesterday (8 stitches!) Not much blood, but it was very very deep.

It went poorly, but wasn't a complete disaster. I reacted (by spinning around, while uttering a low "oh geez" and stamping my feet a couple of times), but within a few seconds pulled myself together, apologized, and said "Yes, you need to go to the clinic, that looks like it needs stitches, or certainly treatment beyond what we can do with first aid here. HR Person, please do whatever paperwork you need so he can go. Employee, are you going to be OK to drive yourself, or would you like someone to drive you over?"

I also realized that I do need some sort of decompression exercise.

Thanks all for your help!
posted by Fig at 11:48 AM on January 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

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