As an EMS provider, you are committing to a career of caring for the sick and injured in some of the worst possible situations. It is a very gratifying career, yet it is also very demanding. There is no doubt why EMS jobs are considered to be one of the most stressful career paths. Oftentimes EMS personnel do not get an adequate amount of sleep or eat properly. They are exposed to numerous stressful situations and are required to do a lot of strenuous lifting and moving. Therefore, it is extremely important for EMS personnel to maintain a healthy lifestyle both on and off the job to ensure a long-lasting career.
Maintaining good physical health has many benefits. It is a well-known fact that people who are physically in shape are less likely to get injured on the job, and if they do get injured, they have an easier time recovering. People who are in great physical shape are also better at coping with the mental stress associated with work, proving that physical health contributes to a person's mental health. There are many factors that make up a person's physical health. Muscle strength, flexibility, diet, hydration, sleep, and posture all have an effect on a person's physical health.
Exercise is a key factor in a person's physical strength, endurance, and overall heart health. It is recommended that adults get at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise every day. Many EMS agencies provide equipment and encourage exercise on the job. If this is the case for you, take advantage of it. Maintaining a regular exercise routine is one way to ensure a longer, healthier career and life.
In addition to exercise, maintaining a healthy diet is vital to overall health. It is suggested that people eat foods from each of the four main food groups: fruits and vegetables, meats, grains, and dairy according to their own dietary needs. On the contrary, poor nutrition often has severe consequences such as obesity, cardiac disease, diabetes, and many other health conditions. Working in EMS, there is not always time to make a meal, making it more convenient at times to stop at a fast-food restaurant in between calls where the food is processed and lacks nutrition. A great way to avoid this and ensure you get the proper nutrition while working is to plan ahead and pack food for the day and keep it in a cooler inside the ambulance.
Preventing injury is another way to maintain good physical health. In EMS, you will be lifting and moving a lot of patients and heavy equipment. Back injuries are the top reason why people end up leaving the EMS career, and 62% of back injuries are caused by lifting. These are injuries that can be prevented if providers learn and use safe lifting techniques. Try to minimize the number of lifts you have to do. Ask patients if they need to be lifted or if they can walk themselves to the gurney or ambulance. Use clear communication when lifting so that everyone is lifting at the same time. If there are additional people, ask them to help lift so that the load is lighter for each person. Never lift using your back. Always keep your back straight and don’t do any twisting motion. Following these steps when lifting will prevent injuries and keep you working as an EMS provider.
EMS providers are not only exposed to physical stressors, but also mental stressors. Dealing with the immediate needs of others, especially with critical patients can be stressful for anyone. It is important to be able to recognize when you are stressed so you can cope with it in a healthy way. If you find that you are stressed, or a co-worker expresses concern about your mental health, be open to seeking help or using the resources provided by your agency to handle stress. Although it is great to be very dedicated and involved with work, it is important to maintain balance and be able to separate yourself from work and focus on your personal life and family.