Webinar Highlights Ways to Thrive Despite Stress and Adversity

EMS Focus

Two EMS veterans, leaders and resilience experts recently engaged in a conversation about self-awareness, self-care, and specific actions, practices and wisdom for living well in the most recent installment of the EMS Focus webinar series. Organizational psychologist John Becknell, PhD, a former paramedic, and Mike Washington, MSW, a mental health therapist and firefighter/EMT with the Seattle Fire Department, discussed ways to turn adversity into an opportunity for personal growth.

EMS professionals and their colleagues throughout healthcare and public safety have often framed “the hard stuff” as something that is psychologically dangerous, explained Becknell. “What we’re finding is that adversity doesn’t need to be the dangerous stuff that causes us to break down,” he said. “We see it as an expected and a major part of the human adventure, and what’s needed is to cultivate the knowledge, skills and passion to get really good at simply rocking and rolling with adversity.”

Washington shared his personal story of tragedy, both on the job and at home. He said the first thing public safety professionals need to do is change their outlook on what is an acceptable way to deal with stress.

“None of the things that we’re talking about now were presented as an option or even a desirable trait” when he first joined the military or the fire service, Washington said. While that attitude has somewhat shifted, remnants of it remain. At the same time, even when people know the right things to do—avoid excessive drinking, eat healthier, sleep better, find a passion outside of work—they’re not always good at actually doing them.

A recording of the webinar and a copy of the presented slides can be accessed at EMS.gov. There you can also find recordings of previous webinars, including several on COVID-19 topics such as testing and crisis standards of care.