Episode 6 - The Professional Empathy Podcast (previously Listening at the Orange Door).
Empathy and Paramedicine with Tammie Bullard
How much do you know about the world of a paramedic? What they do, how they cope, and how we can better support those who deal with life and death situations on a daily basis. Join Tammie Bullard and me as we discuss all things empathy and mental health in a world full of emergencies, stress, and ultimate kindness.
Tammie is a Paramedic in Perth, Western Australia, and the author of the book "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (GBU) Paramedic."
[01:35] - What does the world of paramedicine look like
[04:16] - Tammie's background as a paramedic
[05:39] - About her book The Good, The Bad & The Ugly Paramedic
[07:17] - What causes pressure on the paramedic people
[08:42] - Tammie's favorite thing about being a paramedic
[10:03] - What's happening in the mental health space of paramedicine at the moment
[15:11] - What she does to cope with the stress of working as a paramedic
[20:14] - How does she shape a positive mental health culture with the students
[29:42] - Boundaries and self-care are a part of empathy
[33:17] - How do paramedics make people feel heard, visible, and valued in crisis
[36:25] - What can the public do to make the job for paramedics easier
[41:26] - The shift happening right now in paramedics
[43:49] - The future for the culture of paramedicine
WHAT WE DISCUSSED:
What is Paramedicine?
Tammie: The world of paramedicine is the pre-hospital arena. So paramedicine is any healthcare emergency that happens before people get to the hospital. In some countries, paramedicine can include paramedics, doctors, ambulance officers, ambulance base, nurses, and flight retrieval specialists. So basically, paramedicine is patient care that takes place before the hospital.
What does a paramedic do?
Tammie: In general, a paramedic takes over the care of the patient from First Aiders on the scene—whether those are bystanders or volunteers from the organization—a paramedic crew will then take over, and we provide that patient care to the hospital.
What is your book The Good, The Bad & The Ugly Paramedic all about?
Tammie: The book is a pain-free approach to best patient care and paramedic professionalism. It's about the fact that we're all human and aim to do our best. And it's a friendly approach to help paramedics grow the good habits that they can have, break bad habits that they may have, and undo any ugly habits that are beginning to shape up.
So it's for student paramedics, it's for people interested in the profession, it's also for veteran paramedics and anybody involved in pre-hospital care.
What's happening in the mental health space of paramedicine at the moment?
Tammie: To my understanding, ambulance organizations and ambulance bodies are doing their best to try and increase the mental health and wellbeing of their staff, volunteers, and support staff at the moment.
We've had some investigations in different states, government-led investigations into paramedic suicide, and poor mental health issues. And like most other industries, it's not until these things are brought to the fore and brought to media interest that they can actually gain a bit of traction. And that seems to be what's happening at the moment. So wellbeing and support services in different organizations are really increasing heavily.
Most organizations have good reach-out programs and services that can be provided. The onus is often expressed to be on the paramedic, the volunteer, or the ambulance officer, etc. We're at the moment where everybody is working in different areas but trying to get to the same goal so that paramedics can maintain great mental health to the level that we are expected to give to our patients.
How do you shape a positive mental health culture with the students?
Tammie: My take on it is to remind them to actually be themselves. We all have different human experiences before we came into this job. And so, I try to encourage people to focus on the way they feel. I try to encourage students or people to remember who you are and that one size doesn't fit everyone.
In your world, how do you make people feel heard, visible, and valued in crisis without giving too much yourself?
Tammie: The only way is to listen actively so that you can simply hear the patient or the bystander or everybody. But, there may reach a point when it's extremely chaotic, where the paramedic has to say, "Okay, everybody stop for a second. I do want to hear all of this, but we need to go one at a time. Most important thing at the moment is what's going on with the patient, who can give me a bullet point list of what's happening."
That gives us a starting point. And then, from there, the paramedic continues to ask questions because through this, they can empathize, validate and listen to the concerns.
What sort of things can the public do to understand your job and role?
Tammie: The public relationship is a two-way street. Public perception means everything because if we have only good habits in the public arena, the public naturally wants to help us feel safe. If we develop bad habits, or ugly behaviors, in terms of driving or anything, it only takes one paramedic member to upset the public.
That person will then speak to everybody that they know; they may even go on social media and reach millions of people, based on their perception of what happened. The paramedic may not have behaved badly, necessarily.
So it spreads like wildfire. And then each of the people affected by that may then dislike or even hate all paramedics because of one instance they saw. So we want the general public to care about us or care for us the way we care for them.
What is the future of paramedics?
Tammie: it's getting better. Awareness is increasing that everybody involved needs assistance that it's okay for people to reach out, have a conversation, and be heard by the staff in terms of what they need.
And then also, in terms of the industry, we're a regulated, registered profession in Australia. That simplifies things in terms of there's a more central place to keep track of who is out there; there's a more central place to get information to all of the paramedics available or everybody registered.
There's also an increase in the organization, but we've got things like behind the scenes. We've got sirens of silence. We've got different charities set up to focus purely on emergency first responders, mental health, and wellbeing.
"One size doesn't fit everyone."
"Empathy isn't empathy for yourself when you can say, "I'm just as important to be validated as everyone else. I got what I need to continue with my day." No paramedic, no police officer, no firefighter, no doctor or nurse, nobody can take on board all of the worries of the world and carry them around and still care for themselves."
Find Tammie at https://twitter.com/gbuparamedic
Hi! I'm Leanne Butterworth, Empathy Speaker and Educator, University Lecturer and Mental Health Advocate.
Empathy First is a Brisbane-based social enterprise offering Empathy workshops, online courses and individual Empathy coaching to help you build connection and strengthen your relationships for personal and professional success.
Contact me today and let's talk about how you can put Empathy First.