I wrote my masters thesis in 2012 on the relationship of knowledge, first aid, and the moral requirements of rescue. The thesis argued that 1.) if you have special knowledge or training (first aid), you are morally required to render aid, even if there is no pre-existing legal requirement; and 2.) everyone should be trained in first aid. While it is the case that I have to keep my first aid certificates current in order to work at the bar, I believe that it’s important to keep these skills fresh and sharp regardless of your occupation.
You never know when you’ll need to draw upon the skills, so frequent practice is important if you want to be effective.
There have been two instances while working at the bar where a pedestrian was struck by an automobile while I was working. The first was New Years Eve a few years back, and the second was this past St. Paddy’s Day. Thankfully, in both instances the person did not seem to be critically harmed in the incident, and both were conscious when they were loaded into the ambulance to be taken to the hospital for further attention. I suspect that while both had some degree of recovery ahead of them, they thankfully won’t likely experience prolonged physical suffering.
In both instances, I was working on the door, so I was the first responder on scene to start treatment. In the case of a traffic collision, the most important steps are to protect yourself, and start control of the scene. I can confidently say that I’m terrible at the first thing, and half-decent on the second. This is why consistent practice is important.
I fail on this in two regards. I have a tendency to run out into the street to reach the pedestrian quickly, meaning that I put myself at risk of getting hit by a car while on scene. The other thing I’m bad at is getting to the pedestrian and starting treatment before I finish the scene survey (which includes putting on medical gloves to protect myself). These are big no-no’s. I expose myself to unnecessary risk while trying to be first to the injured, when realistically I should take an additional 15-30 seconds to stop, take in the scene, and put on my gloves.
Control the Scene
I am adequate at this because I tend to default to immobilizing C-Spine and trying to talk to the pedestrian if they are conscious. I could do this better in a number of way, such as having a fellow staff member control the spine while I assess for additional injuries and control the scene (directing people around me, updating EMS, taking notes, etc.). In regards to the staff at the bar, I am probably the most experienced first aider, so removing myself from the decision-making portion of the response has benefits and drawbacks. I am the best person to perform first aid until advanced medical care arrives, but I also have enough experience to understand the dynamics of the scene. At this point, it’s best that I trust my fellow staff to respond appropriately.
Responding to a traffic incident is chaotic, noisy and confusing. On top of this, adrenaline courses through your body, making your hands shake and your limbs jittery. Your brain feels like mush because your thoughts are lightning quick. Time seems to slow down, and that ambulance that is 5-8 minutes away always takes an eternity. You are hyper-focused on your patient, but aware that there is a light din of noise at your periphery. It’s like a bubble is around you, and you are hoping like hell that you don’t mess anything up under the spotlight of the gawking mass of people encircling the scene.
This is all normal. It (sadly) gets easier the more you do it. You become calmer each time you respond; it’s happening to me already.
The lesson to take from this is to always keep your certs current, and find time to meaningfully practice your skills. Someones life may depend on it.