What is first aid and why is it important for Complementary Health practitioners?
Why is it a good idea for anyone to learn first aid? How can being proficient in first aid benefit our mental health?
First aid is the first and immediate assistance given to any person suffering from a minor or serious illness or injury, with care provided to preserve life, prevent the condition and situation from worsening, and to promote recovery. Courses give us the skills and guidance in knowing what to do in an emergency and deciding what sort of help is needed i.e. 999, being taken to A&E, seeing their GP and/or first aider treatment.
We are much more likely to need and use first aid skills on ourselves and immediate family, but as health professionals, we are dealing with people with health issues and anything could happen within our treatments e.g. fainting, a seizure or diabetic hyper/hypo episode; someone may have injured themselves on the way to the session with you, taking it for granted that you’d know what to do. Being prepared and having these skills is a necessary part of our professional ‘tool kit’.
So why is there a resistance to learn first aid? I think the most common answer is fear, often based in unrealistic expectations and urban myths (like first aiders get sued, which can be discussed in another article and as a quick spoiler or comforter, no first aider has ever been sued in the UK or Europe.). This is where First Aid training can benefit our Mental Health and give you peace of mind as a clinical therapist. Most complementary therapists are self-employed and may work from home and having your First Aid certificate is really important so that you know how to act in case of an emergency. Others may work in clinics, hospitals, hospices or sports centres where there is a designated person or persons to ensure at least one First Aider is available at all times.
Many of our CHP members are diligent about renewing their First Aid certification. Having first aid skills and competencies is empowering and therefore boosts our confidence and self-esteem. We know from brain imaging studies that when we are thinking positively, or helping others, we activate what we call “the value Areas” of the brain in regions including the striatum and prefrontal cortex. When we feel confident, we engage circuits involved in reward and pleasure and we literally feel good. We know through research with elite athletes that confidence positively affects their performance. First Aid adds value, to individuals and to society; it promotes a healthy, secure and safer environment.
Being prepared for a situation helps us deal with it and the consequences better. Being well-informed and up-to-date ensure our competence, best-practice and saves us suffering from the unrealistic expectations of misinformation. High quality first aid training can really make a difference. One recent example of this happened at an inter-school netball event in Leicestershire prior to the Covid pandemic. A 12-year-old girl collapsed unconscious and several of the teachers present were advocating putting her into to the recovery position. Fortunately, one first aid trained teacher spotted the girl was agonal breathing/gasping and not breathing normally – a sign of cardiac arrest. The quick and confident actions of starting CPR and sending for an Automated external defibrillator (AED) unit undoubtedly saved her life.
A campaign led by the British Heart Foundation and independent training providers was successful in first aid now being part of the national school curriculum. First aid is great for applying maths, biology, practical and problem-solving skills as well as the practical skills. I would suggest to go a step further though and that it’d be great if school children do the First Aid at Work course before leaving school. It’s a great qualification for them to have with value to industry, social and community. People talk about common-sense like it’s a given, obvious. It isn’t! Common-sense is learnt logic and very few things are truly obvious. First aid is a great way to start thinking about how to deal with urgent situations and becoming more ‘savvy’.
I would suggest too that doing the First Aid at Work course is much more necessary, empowering and confidence giving than just the one-day Emergency First Aid course. As stated previously we are more likely to be dealing with minor injuries and illnesses which are not covered on the one day course.
First Aid is great CPD!
Do you know the difference between a heart attack and a cardiac arrest?
Do you know the difference between a stroke and a TIA (mini-stroke)?
Do you know which takes the longest to heal – a sprain/strain or a fracture - and how prompt first aid affects their long-term outcome?
For a nosebleed - do you close the nose and put the head back or forward?
What is the best treatment for a burn? Let’s blast a myth here! Many aromatherapists will cry out – Lavender! Indeed Lavender, especially English and Spike Lavender are very healing, anti-inflammatory, analgesic and anti-microbial, great for burns, after first aid. Nothing replaces the importance and efficacy of the teaching in first aid, remove (or remove from) the danger and cool it, ideally with water for at least 20mins, whilst cooling assess severity and whether to cover with cling film, call 999 etc. We are all familiar with the urban story repeated in many aromatherapy texts: “In 1910 French chemist and scholar René-Maurice Gattefossé discovered the virtues of the essential oil of lavender. Gattefossé badly burned his hand during an experiment in a perfumery plant and plunged his hand into the nearest tub of liquid, which just happened to be lavender essential oil. He was later amazed at how quickly his burn healed and with very little scarring. This started a fascination with essential oils and inspired him to experiment with them during the First World War on soldiers in the military hospitals.”
What actually happened was... Gattefossé writes:
“The external application of small quantities of essences rapidly stops the spread of gangrenous sores. In my personal experience, after a laboratory explosion covered me with burning substances which I extinguished by rolling on a grassy lawn, both my hands were covered with a rapidly developing gas gangrene. Just one rinse with lavender essence stopped “the gasification of the tissue”. This treatment was followed by profuse sweating, and healing began the next day (July 1910).”
For us as competent and effective health professionals, we have a Duty of Care and safeguarding considerations. I suggest that for all therapists and practitioners, it is essential that we are first aid trained, with no exceptions. (As a registered nurse I am exempt in having to do first aid. However, for many nurses it’s just not their day-to-day experience or speciality. Even in Casualty, nurses and medical staff are the third aid, not first. Contrary to popular belief, most nurses have never had to perform CPR and certainly not on their own in a public or home setting). A regulated course will give us a level 3 qualification and shows our professionalism and the certificate will comfort our clients. Many professional associations and organisations require the therapist/practitioner to have a certificate of First Aid. Many insurance companies require First Aid certification for insurance purposes. It makes sense given that we’re dealing with health-related issues and anything can happen on our premises, for example slips and falls in or outside of our properties, which is why we need public and product indemnity insurance.
How do I choose a good first aid training provider?
St John and Red Cross are the big national names in first aid and both have good availability and lots of training locations to choose from. However, their courses do tend to be costly. There are some excellent regulated independent training providers. Choosing a good first aid provider from the thousands out there can however be a bit of a minefield. The HSE’s advice in this area is that first aid courses linked to regulated qualifications (through Awarding Organisations recognised by Ofqual, SQA and Qualifications Wales) do not require any due diligence or ‘reasonable investigation’ checks on the organisation/company providing the training. For those of us self-employed it makes sense to choose a regulated course to ensure the information and skills taught are up to standard and awarding a level 3 qualification.
Courses are valid for 3 years. Research is ongoing in emergency medicine and occasionally changes are introduced. Long gone are the boring courses obsessed with bandaging! First aid courses from reputable and regulated providers are informative, useful, up-to-date and fun!
Motivation to be a first aider – Real life - Mark’s story
On the evening of Tuesday the 30th of October 1990, I was a production shift manager, working in a bread factory. At 22.20pm I was talking to a dispatch shift manager, when a wagon driver asked us if he could use a phone in the office. The dispatch shift manager said yes, and after the driver had sat down and dialled his number, I heard a gasp, and the driver collapsed backwards off the chair. I told the dispatch shift manager to put a tannoy call out for a first aider, and to call for an ambulance.
The driver was grey, and after about 30 seconds I was informed that there was no first aider on site. I had only seen CPR done on a TV programme, but I made the decision to attempt CPR. As I did this for several minutes (which seemed MUCH longer...) a paramedic and ambulance technician arrived. I explained what had happened, and they both took over from me, to resuscitate the driver.
After a while they stopped resuscitation and told me that there was no chance of life. I felt a sickening knot in my stomach. The paramedic asked me how I was feeling, I explained that I felt both useless and inadequate and that there had been no trained first aider available on shift. The paramedic said that I should be proud that I had attempted CPR, and to become a first aider, as there can never be too many in her opinion.
That night I did not sleep well and replayed the events over and over. The next day I saw the Bakery Chief Executive, explained how I felt and asked to be given the chance to do a First Aider at Work course. I did a First Aid at Work course in December 1990, 5 weeks after the incident. I remained a First Aider at Work re-qualifying every three years until I retired. I am proud to be a first aider and felt much more confident, prepared and capable at work, ensuring the company always had first aid cover.
What are the legal requirements?
For guidance as to the legal first aid requirements of your work place there are helpful assessment tools - here are two:
● The Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981: www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/priced/l74.pdf
● Health & Safety Executive - Selecting a first aid training provider - A guide for employers: www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/geis3.pdf
● Qualsafe Awards - The UK’s Largest Awarding Organisation for First Aid: www.qualsafeawards.org
Teresa Barron RGN RDHA QTLS MCAHyp MCHP
NMC, CNHC and IAAT registered
Teresa is an experienced complementary practitioner and educator with a nursing (RGN) background. She was the Educational Lead for a leading first aid training company for 15 years and designed their instructor and teacher training courses.
CHP Members – Special Offer
All About The Mind are offering 50% off the full price of their Mental Health First Aid courses to CHP members. They also have a limited number of concession places with an extra £25 off for those on low income, over 65s, LGBTQ+ and those from minority ethnic backgrounds. James Chapman, owner and lead trainer, has worked as a massage therapist for 18 years and realises how devastating the impact has been on our profession and how important mental health training is for both therapists and clients. Get the promocode in the members area of the CHP website. All About The Mind are accredited by MHFA England and are a CIMSPA Training Provider.