Resilience — An Essential Part of the Public Safety Professional


CarolinaFireJournal - William Tatum
William Tatum
10/16/2020 -

Each day that we put on our uniform and report for duty, we know that we are likely to face challenges and adversity. While this fact is what drew us to our chosen profession, we must remain personally and situationally aware of the effects on our minds and bodies. We must utilize resilience for us to “bounce back” from difficult situations.

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Resilience can be defined as a process in which one adapts well in the face of adversity, traumatic situations, tragedy and significant sources of stress. Understandably, events such as those are difficult at times and can cause pain and heartache. However, they do not have to control nor guide your life. Being resilient will help you learn, grow, and improve the present situations in life. Being one that can be described as the epitome of resilience does not mean that you will never face difficult situations. It simply means that you have a strong support group through family, friends and peers.

Resilience takes time to build up and strengthen. Meditate, journaling, practicing self-compassion can enhance your “Resilience Muscle.”

Become Resilient

You must make intentional movements to become resilient. Understand, this will take some time. Educating yourself on your personal needs for mental health, as well as physical health will go a long way. You must consider your coping mechanisms, the people you engage in conversations with and your overall health habits. When you use self-reflection as a tool, answers to your problems can become evident. Be purposeful in finding “you time” and process your thoughts and concerns. Provider suicide rates are on the rise and it is up to US to lessen those numbers. 

Find Resources

There are many programs and resources out there to help us in difficult times. Bearing the entire weight of a bad call, being bullied while on the job, family stressors and just life in general takes its toll on Public Safety Professionals every day. Do not be afraid to reach out. We are all Brothers and Sisters in Service here after all. Isolation is not the answer when it comes to dealing with stress. Surround yourself with trustworthy and empathetic people who will help and support you in polishing your individual skill of resilience.

Avoid Negative Outlets

Avoid negative outlets such as alcohol, drugs, and other substance abuse mechanisms. Find your purpose though proactive endeavors. Set goals for yourself, reach out to others with similar obstacles, self-discover, and most importantly, understand that you are not alone. The South Carolina EMS Association (scemsa.org) has partnered many times with SC FAST (scfast.org) to offer services and training on mental health. Many employers offer Employee Assistance Programs which either offer or can refer you to resources that can assist on a variety of needs.

I am certain that when we each began this year of 2020, being in the middle of a pandemic never really crossed our minds. Just think about how our lives were changed. Many of us had to adjust to businesses being closed, schools shut down along with concerns of childcare options and on-line learning, and spending most of our time in public masked. This created unprecedented stress levels and moments of uncertainty. However, we dug our heels in and went to work providing the highest levels of patient care and customer service we could. We were able to do so with resiliency.

Services came together to provide PPE to each responder. Collaboration between all aspects of Public Safety were strengthened which enabled us to remain forward facing and engaged in completing the task at hand. We have learned many lessons over the past nine months, and we will take this knowledge with us into the future. We learned quickly that we were not alone in this battle with COVID-19.

Final Thoughts

Resilience is key to remain a vital part of the Public Safety profession. We must keep things in perspective, be acceptable of change, and maintain an optimistic view of life and all that surrounds it. This is not an easy task and one not to be taken lightly. Understand that you are never alone. If you have read this article and found meaning and purpose from it, then you now have me and many others as a resource to reach out to. There is a quote that I like to share with my staff and anyone facing difficult times. “There’s a reason your windshield is bigger than your rearview mirror. Where you are headed is more important that what you left behind.”

Learn from your past. Mistakes that happen more than once are habits. Be strong, be purposeful, be mindful, and you will find your resilience.

William Tatum serves as President of the South Carolina EMS Association. He is also a career paramedic serving as the Communications Supervisor for Prisma Health Emergency Medical Services. In addition, he is the SC Membership Coordinator and one of the Region II Directors on the Executive Board for the National Association of EMT’s (NAEMT). Tatum is currently involved as an Adjunct Instructor for EMT programs in the upstate and is part of many EMS and Public Safety Advisory Committees. He can be reached via email at [email protected].

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