Fast approaching 60 years old might be considered a strange time to completely change a career, but it seemed to fit my circumstances and my outlook on life, so I took the plunge.
I’m not going to go into the details of setting up as a sole trader, opening a business relationship with one’s bank, or dealing with HMG’s Customs and Revenue Dept, I am here to talk about the inside processes of becoming a First Aid trainer, there’s plenty written on the web to satisfy those even more out of my comfort zone than I, who was an employee all his working life, until the jump into becoming a first-aid trainer.
So, firstly a little bit about myself – I left school at 18 with 3 A-levels, didn’t bother with university. After a few retail jobs, I put myself through the old Class 1 HGV test (artics) and all the CDG/ADR qualifications, which for the civilian ear is cool stuff like explosives and radio-active, and for the next 35 years worked for various companies, finishing up contracted to Esso moving Jet A-1 between airports. This type of work necessarily required that a basic grasp of first-aid was needed to pass the aforementioned qualifications, all to be refreshed every 3 years. Unsurprisingly, over that 35 years, the resuscitation protocols have changed considerably, so my first comment to newbie teachers is:
No matter what you think you know, read and keep up to speed with the Resuscitation Council’s current protocols, because it’s what you should be teaching, despite sometimes conflicting with what past practical experience or “common sense” might have taught you.
OK, so having kept up my basic first-aid at work qualification over the years, one could reasonably argue that it’s a bit presumptuous of me to think that I’ve had sufficient practical experience to teach others first aid, but my work history is not where I honed my skills. One of my two children joined a rugby club as a junior, and club policy insisted that every team had at least one CRB-checked qualified first-aider with them wherever they played. I was volunteered (willingly), and during my son’s time as a junior, I had to deal with nose-bleeds, bone breaks, dislocations, knock-outs, occasional concussions (the club was ahead of the times with this – straight off and no return to playing before passing what is now a SCAT 3 test), and a few neck injuries, some of which required that games were continued on an adjacent pitch, while I kept “little Johnny” stabilised and motionless where he lay, waiting for an ambulance to arrive. There was the odd conflict with pushy parents who thought Johnny was fine, but I found that if one talks to the casualty continually, in a confident positive voice, loud enough for parents and bystanders to hear clearly, it was easier for them to understand why you were doing what you were doing. It would often be the case that weeks later when Johnny was playing again, his parents would become your “new best friend”, and back you up against other parents if you found yourself having to keep their child off the pitch – in the case of a concussion for example. So my second comment to newbie First Aid teachers is:
Always encourage your learners to talk confidently to their “casualty” all the way through the course, and always to do so if using their new skills for real – not just for CPR primary surveys, but for everything!
The recovery position, putting a bandage on, secondary surveys. Get learners to explain what they’re doing, why they’re doing it etc. by talking to the casualty…. not only for the benefit of that casualty who’s sense of hearing will be the last to go if becoming unconscious, and the first to come back on return to consciousness, but for more positive interaction with bystanders, who will be more willing to assist a confident-sounding first-aider, if you “involve” them. As a First Aid teacher, it’s a great aid in assessing whether the learner has grasped what is required of them to pass the First Aid course too.
When my son moved to playing senior rugby at a level one league below nationals, I went with him as a first-aider, and soon realised that the way one talked to adult casualties when treating them was particularly important – polite but firm was the way forward – as far as adult rugby players was concerned, at least. Collisions were/are so much more damaging at this level. As a group, they knew that you were there for their benefit, but they would still swear black was white if it meant that they could stay on the pitch, caring little for the fact that a collar-bone was broken, or an ear wasn’t quite attached properly. Assessing a conscious, but damaged, 6-foot 7-inch second row forward was always a challenge, especially if he didn’t want to hear what you were telling him – almost as bad as giving them the news that they cannot continue after regaining consciousness following a big impact. Persuading them that it was in their best interest to accept what they were being told required tact and diplomacy. To be fair, they were seriously in tune with their own bodies, as was the club, and the chart in the physio room catalogued the various players and their sports rehab requirements. One season for my son saw an inversion injury, a radius break which had to be plated and screwed, a finger dislocation, and a broken nose (his third, which has straightened it out from the previous two!), and he is a full back. The attrition rate amongst the forwards was much greater, and all great experience for me… which leads me to my third point for newbies:
As a First Aider or as a First Aid trainer, be sure of what you’re saying, and confident in saying it. Be factual, and if dealing with a potentially sensitive subject on a course – for example, the possible presence of underwiring in a bra necessitating its removal to prevent burning the casualty if an AED has to be used – be matter-of-fact in talking about it. There is no part of the first-aid syllabus where one can get away with a “bullshit baffles brains” mentality…. or put politely, “if you can’t convince, confuse!” One day there will be someone on the course with full internet access, determined to make you look like an idiot, trying to pick holes in everything you say. Apart from offering them the opportunity to take over teaching the course, which often shuts them up, I would still recommend that the best position to take with learners is “the only silly question is the one that remains unasked”, and if you don’t have an immediate answer to a question, don’t make one up! The breaks in the course are an opportunity to find an answer, which you can deliver when appropriate.
Unfortunately, a change in employer saw my shift pattern change, which meant a lot of week-end work, so my involvement as a rugby first-aider sadly had to be set aside. However, as a keen motorcyclist and fan of road racing for many years, I was a regular visitor to the Isle of Man TT races, and early on was encouraged to join the TT Marshals’ Association. As such, I received additional training in incident management, and more advanced first aid techniques, as our role was to keep a racer “viable” until heli-med arrived on scene, and then to assist the medical team as directed. Outside of racing, it is expected that one also helps visitors to the Isle if they have unscheduled dismounts. Whether a racing incident, or dealing with those who have “run out of talent” (an American phrase) whilst riding, speeds are usually high, and injuries serious. My present role is as a Deputy Sector Marshal, responsible for part of the Mountain section of the course, with a team of other marshals at my disposal, whose safety is also my responsibility. Following assessment, I also take the decision whether heli-med needs scrambling, if racing incidents occur in my sector.
I am also an advanced rider, have been a volunteer “blood-runner” and am currently NHS liaison “officer” for the charity SERV (Service by Emergency Rider Volunteers) for many years. My experience saw me recruited by the Unity Support Riders (USR for short – again as a volunteer), a group of motorcyclists given additional rider training by MetPol, originally to assist them, and other police services, in managing large mobile motorcycle and bicycle charity events, but latterly as budgets have been diverted, such events are now done by the USR team alone, and the role now includes on-route first aid cover, and scene management if a participant rides “beyond their abilities”.
Over the years, this, and TT experiences have enabled me to keep up my “hands-on” involvement with first-aid and offers me plenty of anecdotes to pass on to learners. In introducing myself, after a contents warning, I show a very brief video of one of the TT crashes I assisted with, and whilst it looks awful, the casualty pops up large as life to talk about it, showing that the outcome following prompt intervention can be very positive and really establishes my credibility as a First Aid trainer. The video doubles up as an ice-breaker, as I tell learners that the racer flew further, and was in the air for longer than the Wright Brothers’ first flight.
It also gives me the opportunity to tell the learners that despite the apparent seriousness of the crash as they see it, as the attending “first responder” I am lucky, in that I know what I’m likely to face as I approach the scene of an incident. I impress upon them that their prompt attention to a casualty in their workplace will be every bit as important to that casualty, and that their assessment of the more varied situations they might find themselves dealing with, is key to a positive outcome for their casualty, and the safety of themselves and others in the vicinity, so as a group, we can embark on the subject of the role of the first-aider and the three P’s, with everyone feeling positive about themselves, and the value of the course. So, my last comment for newbie trainers is simply this:
Never talk down to your First Ad learners. They are every bit as important as you are. Whilst any past practical First Aid experiences might stand you in good stead when dealing with any future incident, you’ve only done your job properly if the learners go home from the course confident that they can act appropriately in any given situation, either at work or at home. First aid skills are skills for life.