Posts Tagged ‘first aid’

First aid

Sunday, March 17th, 2013 | Thoughts

I’m trained in first aid. I have a certificate to prove it and everything. There is a good chance you do too. If you haven’t, some people at your work will do – it’s a legal requirement.

I wonder what the evidence for its efficacy though.

Think about how much you remember from your first aid course. Probably very little. Indeed, in my experience speaking to first aid reps at various companies, they say they can remember very little from their course.

Even if they do remember something, those that do usually admit that when they were actually called on to deal with an accident, they were in such a panic that even though knowledge blanked from their mind. Given what we know about psychology, that is no surprise – unless you do this every day, you’re going to struggle with the pressure.

The one thing people do tend to remember is CPR, presumably because having to kiss a dummy seems rather strange and therefore sticks in the mind. This is unfortunate as CPR isn’t a particularly useful piece of first aid because the survival rates are so low, as I’ll go into detail about.

CPR is bad. If you need to give CPR, it means someone’s heart has stopped, so they’re probably going to die. In fact, as my first aid instructor explained, all you’re doing is keeping the meat warm until the paramedics get there. You probably won’t manage it, and even if you do, they will probably die in hospital as a result anyway. Survival rates from by standers giving CPR is 5%; you have a 1 in 20 chance of making it.

That isn’t because people aren’t trained to do CPR, it’s because when someone’s heart has stopped, they’re fucked. Even if you are in a hospital at the time, and a doctor is watching you, the odds are against you, and if a doctor isn’t watching, the unfavourable odds drop to 1 in 50.

My point isn’t that first aid isn’t useful – I think it is. But I think we need to teach it in a far more effective way. A way in which people come away with more than only one piece of knowledge, that probably won’t save anyone’s life anyway.

Ideally, we would teach it in schools so that everybody knows it too. Then hopefully at least one person will be calm enough to remember what they learned.