Monday, October 14, 2013

Look for Life, Avoid Burn Out

Lifeguarding is often portrayed as a glamorous job. Almost always, lifeguards work in fun locations. The work atmosphere tends to be more enjoyable than most. The solitary duties of a lifeguard can become tedious, though. Scanning the water to ensure that everyone is okay, maintaining focus, and avoiding conversation while on duty can wear down a lifeguard. Equally tiring is the job of looking for what is going wrong. It's possible for lifeguarding to be compared to a long, arduous game of comparing photos to find the subtle differences. When lifeguarding becomes a task of finding what is wrong with the picture, it sets the lifeguard up for burnout.

Recently SAI StarGuard Director, Lake White, spoke on the importance of having the right outlook while lifeguarding. Meaning, look for what is going right, instead of what is going wrong. When a lifeguard is focused on finding the error in the scenario - an unresponsive person in the water - the mentality can become similar to someone who is looking for a needle in a haystack. It can become tedious for a lifeguard to look for something day-after-day that does not happen. Some lifeguards may go the entire season without having to perform a rescue. In his recent lecture, Lake White pointed out that burnout in lifeguards often occurs because they are in a sense "just waiting" for something to happen. If lifeguards are actively looking for life, then lifeguards will be able to find what they are looking for while on duty. If a lifeguard is focused on looking for life - movement in the water - it will be apparent when there is a lack of movement in the water. The method of looking for life does not require scouring for the possible error, but instead it helps lifeguards evaluate whether the situation in the water is as it should be or not.

Lifeguards should be proud of keeping people safe. If lifeguards are focused on looking for what is going right in the water, then each shift that does not require a rescue will mean a shift where the lifeguards where engaged with what was going right, and actively guarding those in the water.