Advice for war room
I read "The War Room" (article, Oct. 27) with intense interest.
I am an experienced emergency nurse. I ran the Baghdad emergency room for a year (in 2004, 31st Combat Support Hospital), and was a burn trauma nurse at the Army Burn Center.
I have seen more horror and tragedy than the typical person. The atmosphere relayed in the article reminded me very much of the many trauma rooms where death won the day.
In the emergency care circles, we found that a debriefing is a beneficial technique to help let go of the emotion and guilt of an event. Also, time works its magic on the repeated exposure to horrific or emotionally challenging events.
I can tell you that experienced trauma nurses know that, over time, these spikes of emotion become somewhat blunted. We’ve learned that, even in the throes of a horrific, dramatic scene, "this too will pass." Over time, we are able to come back daily and give that next victim the expertise, competence and compassion he or she deserves. We learn to lean on, trust and support each other.
My advice is to first realize that what you are feeling is normal.
Talking helps. Don’t be dismissive of others’ reactions, and watch out for the newbie. Be approachable by kindly asking how he or she is doing after a big event, and then genuinely listen.
Seek professional mental health providers when needed. Recognize that emotion is a human reaction that can become a destructive and unproductive force, complicating our ability to rationally reason. It is as natural as grimacing when you smash your thumb with a hammer but, just as happens physically, we heal and toughen up emotionally.
You honorably protect the lives of our soldiers, airmen. Hooah!
Col. Greg KidwellDeputy commander for Nursing47th Combat Support HospitalCamp Speicher, Iraq