There's something I really love about procedural support. The gratification is immediate and the impact reaches patients, families and staff all at once. Patients may experience less pain, families may feel less stress, and staff can do their job easier, quicker and more safely.
Boy, I have had some rough experiences along the way, though. I vividly remember a time when I was an intern, observing my first burn dressing. The room was kept warm, which is typical for burn dressings, as the patient’s skin is less able to regulate temperature. That was not helping me in my gloves, gown and mask, though. The smell and the heat and the visuals were all too much and I promptly left... and then briefly passed out in bathroom.
If you've worked in pediatrics, I'm sure you've had a similar experience – whether you were sick to your stomach for a while after a procedure or whether were like me – resting comfortably on a public bathroom floor.
If you're thinking about going into pediatrics, know that these moments are not the determining factor of your future success – squeamishness is common among nearly all clinicians at some point in their careers.
1. Make sure you're eating and drinking regularly.
I cannot stress this enough. Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, has accounted for the majority of my woozy moments. It can be easy to forget the last time you ate or drank when you're juggling clinical and administrative needs. To remedy this, I usually have a big breakfast before work and keep granola bars and water close by. If you need to, set reminders on your phone to remember to eat and drink between patient visits. Research has shown that hypoglycemia can result in feelings of anxiousness, lightheadedness, confusion and shakiness. No one wants to play guitar with shaky hands. Trust me on this one!
2. Look away when you need to.
Your job as a music therapist, intern or student is to support the patient and their ability to cope during a procedure. No one said you had to watch! In fact, becoming too focused on the medical procedure may impede your ability to be fully present with the patient. Keep your gaze fixed on the patient (or on a fixed point if the patient isn’t in view).
3. Get informed.
We are often made aware of a request for procedural support prior to being thrust into the room. Take a few moments to educate yourself if the procedure is something you know little to nothing about. If you're running low on time, try to get the answers to these three major questions: (1) what are the steps involved in the procedure, (2) what is required of the patient in order to stay safe, and (3) where should the music therapist (or student!) be to best support the patient and staff for a safe, efficient procedure.
4. Bring your focus to your breath.
Is the room starting to spin a bit? Take a moment to bring attention to your breath. If you're singing, slow down your tempo to allow enough for a nice, deep breath. You're taking some artistic license! Breath through your nose and sing (or breathe) out to a fixed point across the room.
I keep peppermint oil in my desk. If I have time before I enter a room, I dab just a tiny bit on my non-dominant wrist, where I can get a quick whiff. Studies show that peppermint oil can reduce nausea, headaches, and fatigue – a win-win-win!
5. Be patient with yourself.
Look, procedural support rarely goes perfectly. Even last week, I had a "non-textbook moment" where the child needed support from multiple staff to remain still and I ended up with vomit on my shoe. There can be multiple factors entirely out of our control – with the patient, the medical staff, and ourselves.
If you're feeling a little squeamish or discouraged with how a procedural support encounter went, do your best to shake it off. Next time, it'll be a little easier, and a little easier still the time after that. You'll have great experiences and then you'll have less-than-great experiences. You'll learn tips and tricks that work best for you. Hopefully, you'll realize that even if you have moments of squeamishness, you are an empathetic and caring music therapist or student who is getting better with each experience!
Love you all -