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Perceptions of Nervousness


Americans tend to have a dreamy perception of the people they see in the roles of heroes. They see individuals in public safety roles, (both emergency managers and those in public safety roles such as police, fire and emergency medical services), as having marvelous nerves of steel.  Many of these individuals are tremendously strong-minded and strong-willed, and look to fill the role of a rescuer or protector in the roles that they choose.

For those new to public safety or responding to emergencies in general, they can be nervous wanting to make a good impression on those they will be working with--particularly those in higher level positions. Further, the thought of responding to an actual emergency can be nerve racking, as they lose track of the notion that they’re responding to someone else’s emergency and not their own.

However, nervousness is a serious public relations concern. If a patient or their family thinks that someone responding is nervous, they’ll immediately be concerned about their own patient care. If the public perceives an emergency manager as nervous, they may immediately become concerned about the overall management of a major crisis.

Thus, it becomes incredibly important for the management of any emergency agency to make sure that they do not have personnel who are nervous on scene.

Nervousness Makes Everyone Nervous

When someone is nervous, they portray themselves as not being confident in what they’re doing. As such, their nervousness makes everyone around them nervous.

The patients and their families are suddenly concerned about everything this person will be doing, and the individual’s crew becomes increasingly concerned about potential mistakes they may be making. Further, if an emergency manager comes across as nervous, citizens and those around the manager can become gravely concerned about their skill set.

Nervousness, ultimately, makes everyone nervous.

Preparedness and Calming Nerves

It goes without saying that someone in an authoritarian position needs to work with an individual to calm their nerves. This is, of course, easier said than done. It can be very difficult to completely calm someone’s nerves, especially when they’re new to the emergency realm.

The Help Guide lists out symptoms of stress, and there are many other resources for supervisors to review. It needs to be within a supervisor's role to help nervous employees calm their nerves, otherwise this can have a serious impact on effectively managing the team and the incident. 

Calming someone’s nerves in the long term has a serious impact on the preparedness of the team.


It can be difficult to put someone who is terribly nervous into an emergency situation given the serious nature of emergencies. Thus, it becomes increasingly important to continually train the individual. In doing so, they may find that they’re able to focus better under pressure and are confident in their skill set.

The more training there is, (even through mock scenarios), the more an individual may feel confident in what they do. They should however, also contemplate in the midst of these scenarios, whether  or not working in the emergency field is right for them.

Nervousness tends to make everyone nervous, so it's important for supervisors to work with their staff to make sure they feel confident and can handle an emergency when it comes up.

Allison G. S. Knox Passionate about the issues affecting ambulances and disaster management, Allison focuses on Emergency Management and Emergency Medical Services policy. Allison has taught at the undergraduate level since 2010. Prior to teaching, she worked in a level-one trauma center emergency department and for a member of Congress in Washington, D.C. She holds four master’s degrees in Emergency Management, National Security Studies, International Relations, and History; a Graduate Certificate in Homeland Security; and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. Allison is an Emergency Medical Technician, Lifeguard, and Lifeguard Instructor, and is trained in Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue. She serves on the Board of Trustees for Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society as Chancellor of the Southeast Region, Vice Chair of the Tactical Emergency Medical Support Committee with the International Public Safety Association, and serves as the Advocacy Coordinator of Virginia with the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians. She is also a member of several committees including the Editorial Committee with APCO, the Rescue Task Force Committee with the International Public Safety Association, and the Advocacy Committee with the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians. She also serves as Chair of the Leadership Development Program for the 2020 Pi Gamma Mu Triennial Convention. Allison has published several book reviews and continues to write about issues affecting ambulances, emergency management, and homeland security.