A couple of weekends ago, I lost my first patient in the ER of non COVID-19 related causes. We tried resuscitating for over half an hour in full view of the family before we called it. I was in charge of performing CPR chest compressions, which is an exhausting challenge both physically and emotionally. CPR is a very difficult task to carry out well for any length of time, and we were working in essentially a two person team. It was me and whoever could sub me out to recover before jumping back in. We were spread thin that night in the ER. Multiple traumas and strokes called for the staff to be spread out. This is why I had to take long turns of CPR with whoever was available to switch me out. Performing good CPR can be difficult for a number of reasons. It requires strong, consistent effort. Each compression must be at least 2 inches deep into the chest (for adults) at a rate of 100-120 bpm, allowing for full chest recoil after each compression, so it is a relatively fast motion. Good form is key to making it sustainable. It is important to lock the arms, position the shoulders over the arms, and press by bending at the hips rather than arms. Hand positioning is important so that you are pressing on the heart and not just squeezing a lung. The movement itself has to be done with conviction and authority. You have to mean it when you break their ribs to save their life. You are literally pushing the blood through their body to try and keep their brain and organs alive. There is a lot to think about, and keeping these things sharp only gets harder as your body gets more tired. Just like anything else, as your body gets tired, it is easy to start slipping out of form, easy to stop paying attention to your hand placement, bpm, and depth. It is easy to get tunnel vision in what you are doing and forget that it is a team effort and you need to be aware of what is going on around you, and what your teammates are doing and saying to you.

While I was working, I couldn’t stop thinking of the lessons I have learned from Gym Jones and our trainer, Michael Hulcher. This sounds crazy, but the transferability between what I was doing and lessons learned on the rower were remarkable. Instead of stroke rate it was compressions per minute. Strength and speed of pulls became depth and speed of compressions. The  monitor on the rower became the monitor of vitals. Instead of leaning back with each stroke, it was forward into the compression. The mental discipline to perform even when tired and intimidated at Gym Jones was the same as the discipline required to perform under pressure and keep an organized mind in a chaotic environment that was much more high stakes. 

Even though the ending wasn’t a happy one, I could walk away knowing that I performed exactly how I was supposed to, and that was all I could do. On top of the physical stress, you can’t give in to the voices in your head, or the stress of the situation. You can’t allow the stress to make you perform subpar. Performance under stress is key. Really the mind has to be primary, because if the body or your emotions are in charge, you will fall apart. And having the body and emotions trained and in check makes that control even better and improves overall ability to perform under pressure. 

One of my coworkers who was on my CPR team was pretty heartbroken and asked me, “Do you still love your job?” I answered yes. Because we can’t win them all. But we can give it everything we have. I am thankful for the tools that I get from the gym that help me be a better healthcare professional and better person, especially to be strong enough to carry some heavy burdens and be sustainable in a high stress career. At Gym Jones we work hard to get stronger, not just to lift big weights, but to deal with life’s burdens. We don’t just learn to push through painful workouts, but painful experiences. Training at Gym Jones gives us the tools to deal with the prospect of pain and struggle in any form. You just can’t rely on optimal conditions to perform optimally. Get used to the idea that things aren’t going to be perfect.