Do you have what it takes to be a first responder?

August 12, 2016

community nursing

A first responder is the first to arrive and dispense medical care to the injured at the scene of an emergency. This could be anyone from a paramedic to an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) to a person with basic knowledge of First Aid.

Skills essential for first responders

A first responder’s task at hand is multi-dimensional. In addition to attending to the person in need, as a first responder, you will also have to deal with other people around, who may or may not add to the problem at hand. It is not unusual for family, friends and empathetic bystanders to give suggestions, try to help and add more emotion to the incident. All of this can actually get in the way and make caring for the patient more difficult. Knowing how to deal with them can help alleviate the stress for you so that you can focus on giving the patient the medical treatment they need.

As a first responder, these skills are essential to be able to get on with doing your job while keeping the situation under control:

The ability to stay calm

The most important part of being a first responder is staying calm no matter what. The ability to stay calm and focused can make the difference between being useful and getting frazzled in chaotic situations. Staying calm also helps calm down others around you, making it easier for you to dispense the necessary care.

Knowing when & how to delegate work

Some hesitate to delegate work. They prefer to do everything themselves. However, as a first responder, taking on the entire burden of caring for the victim and trying to diffuse an emotional situation can be overwhelming. It is important to know when and how to delegate work. While you may not want to delegate any medical work, get others around you to take care of other non-medical tasks such as calling emergency services, handing you items from the first aid kit, recording important information and observations according to your dictation. You can even delegate a few individuals to manage the crowd and ask them to step back so it gives you and the victim some breathing space.

The ability to express empathy

Empathy can be a very powerful tool but only when it is genuine. Are you genuinely empathetic? If you are, you will excel in the role of a first responder. More often than not, emergency situations tend to be hostile and tense. Trying to take care of a patient in the midst of such a volatile atmosphere can be difficult.   A reassuring tone and a soothing manner are sometimes all that’s needed to diffuse the tension in an emergency situation. By putting yourself in the shoes of the concerned, you can help ease their fears and control the situation, letting you get on with your work without any additional stress.

First Responders are not just life savers. They are peacekeepers as well. If you are considering a career in as an EMT or paramedic, you should first consider whether or not you have the skills necessary to play both roles.


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Gap Medics provides year-round hospital work experience for people aged 16 and over. Our shadowing placements offer a unique insight into the work of doctors, nurses, midwives and dentists – helping students to focus their career aspirations before embarking upon medical training.