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Carrie Burns

Having the courage to reassess your professional practice.

As a Paramedic of over 10 years, Carrie Burns knows a thing or two about remaining cognitive and functional under pressure. Throughout the course of her career she has been able to spot most of the curve-balls that the profession throws at you, including working as a single-officer in rural settings, mentoring new recruits and even responding to large-scale humanitarian disasters.

However, during the second half of 2023, it felt like the wheels were slowly coming off her ‘professional’ wagon. 

“At first, I really wasn’t able to pinpoint what was affecting me,” she said. 

“I mean - don’t get me wrong - I love my job and I feel very privileged to be able to do it in a beautiful place, surrounded by a great community. But something wasn’t right. For a long time, I just felt kind of…off.”

What began as feelings of general uncertainty, alienation and burnout quickly developed into overwhelming negative emotions, an unhealthy dose of imposter syndrome and consistent second-guessing of her own knowledge and ability.

“Being a Paramedic can be a struggle at times,” Carrie says, “I don’t just mean the job or even the shiftwork, either. It can be - for some, maybe many - a constant rollercoaster of feeling like you’re not prepared, or that you don’t know enough, or that what you’re doing is wrong. If you let it, this can become really debilitating.”

And so, as the months passed on, Carrie continued to try and make sense of her growing feelings of unrest and frustration. Whilst the organisation she works for (a state-based Ambulance Service), has a robust mental health framework, the simple fact was that she felt unable to identify how or why to start the conversation. In her mind, the problem was so huge and multi-faceted that tackling it would take more energy than she had.

“I can remember feeling a real sense of abandonment,” she says, “Like I was the only one who was experiencing such struggles. In hindsight, now I can see how burnt-out and dysregulated I really was!”.

Carrie’s journey continued until, one innocuous day, she attended a case that brought her whole world down.

“When I think about that case, it actually went pretty well. But afterwards I just couldn’t stop beating myself up about a series of small mistakes I’d made. These just added to what had been going on for so long, to the point where I felt incompetent and ill-equipped to do the job”.

“Thankfully, I can look back now and see that it wasn’t that way at all, but at the time these problems felt real and completely insurmountable”.

Carrie immediately took some extended leave from her position and began the process of stripping back the layers to find her inner Resilience.

“What I found was that I probably hadn’t put a good pathway in place for me to develop Resilience in the first place,” she says, “Which led to my deterioration in that moment”.

Over a series of weeks, Carrie began work with The Resilience Lab to establish a base of safety and assurance, combined with the confidence that stems from a more regulated and fluid Nervous System. To begin with, she attended to the BASE elements of the Base-Progress-Thrive Model, taking herself away for a few days to disconnect with the world and reconnect with rest, exercise and nature.

“I think - when you’re inside the washing machine of everyday life - it’s sometimes

hard to be objective, to get perspective,” she says, “But I can attest to the fact that until you give yourself some space to think, re-energise and rest, it’s almost impossible to break the cycle”.

With her BASE elements under better control, Carrie’s work with The Resilience Lab then turned to building Functional Breathing and Nervous System Regulation into her professional practice, giving her simple, adaptable tools to use ‘in the moment’.

“I’ve been able to better focus on how my stress has increased or decreased - especially with communication - and also to stop and take note of where I am on the Polyvagal scale and to take a moment to decide where I want to be”.

Happily, Carrie returned to her full-time role a few months ago with a renewed sense of purpose and awareness of what it takes to remain Resilient.

“It’s much easier for me to identify factors that are affecting me now and take control of them in real-time”, she says, “There’s still some work to be done, but I definitely feel like I have the confidence and a solid pathway to follow.”

Learn more about Carrie’s story via our YouTube Channel by clicking HERE.

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