The general syllabus and methods used in first aid training have not changed much over the past several decades. Many students often say that in their experience the training courses that they have attended have not really changed for years.
Well, does this really matter? First aiders are only trained once every three years and, depending upon their workplace, they may or may not use their skills on a regular basis. With this in mind, the efficiency and effectiveness of their training and the degree to which they have retained their knowledge, skills and confidence can be very important.
The best way to train adults is to allow them to experience and gain knowledge through their own efforts rather than by telling them what to do. This is called Experiential Learning. Experiential learning is the process of learning through experience, and is more specifically ‘learning through reflection on doing’. Experiential learning is very different to the way many first aid courses are currently taught, where the student plays a comparatively passive role by just being told by the trainer what to do via ‘Talk and Chalk’ training.
Very little research has been undertaken on how well first aid knowledge and skills are retained by first aiders at work, but it has been shown that medical staff (such as medical students) retain information much better when taught using practical experiential methods rather than by learning from the trainer in theory.
One method of using experiential learning in emergency medical care training is to use simple training scenario situations. These have been shown to be a very effective way of training individuals to manage medical emergencies and to help them retain essential knowledge and skills for longer. The London Air Ambulance service have developed a training program based around this theory and indeed use training scenarios with a simple manikin in their training. We believe that these methods can be applied to first aid training at work and their use would greatly improve the learning outcomes for first aiders. An example would be to use simulated cases with a manikin, or even better a medical actor, to teach the management of medical emergencies such as diabetes or epilepsy. Such training techniques must be carefully facilitated by the trainer to ensure the desired outcome and to moderate the obvious stress that first aiders have in working through such scenarios, particularly in front of their peers. Provided this occurs, it is a great technique for training first aid.
At Promet, we have incorporated experiential learning into our courses via our ‘First Aid Active’ training programme. We already include scenario work with both simple manikins and medical actors and we are developing simple electronic manikins that will provide real time feedback to our first aiders for many of the skills required in their training.
We also have our own troupe of medical actors and we are developing an experiential training course based upon working with pre recorded videos of emergency casualty scenes to help our first aiders gain confidence in managing the scene as well as the casualty. The first aiders will decide their actions in relation to the emergency scene as it unfolds in real time and their decisions will ultimately determine the outcome, good or ill, for the casualty.
These are just a few examples of how we have developed our training courses to give the first aiders we train the best chance of learning and retaining potentially life saving first aid skills and knowledge. We believe that employers have a duty, not only to provide the legally required training, but also to ensure that it is based upon sound educational theory with modern training methods.