“WHEN we run first aid courses, it’s not just teaching kids to put on a Band-Aid – we show them how to save a life,” says St John Ambulance youth adviser and volunteer Scott Mitchell.
Teaching kids as young as eight how to respond in an emergency situation, Scott has been running preliminary first aid courses with St John Ambulance in Canberra for over a year – and he believes every child should know basic first aid.
“There have been stories in the news about young kids saving a parent’s life by remaining calm and dialling 000 immediately… it shows kids can be very helpful in an emergency,” he says.
“If a child is able to pick up the phone and call 000, they have done so much already.”
Volunteers in the St John Ambulance junior program – for ages 8 to 12 – learn key skills such as assessing a patient, preparing slings and managing for shock.
“They also learn about fractures, sporting injuries and how to respond to medical emergencies like diabetes and epilepsy,” Scott says.
“It’s a lot more than just CPR.”
Juniors attend weekly, basic first aid training sessions during the school term, and also participate in camps, excursions and adventure activities.
“By doing this weekly, it’s the ongoing practice they need to feel comfortable if an emergency situation arises,” Scott says.
And in an emergency, every minute counts.
“One example is an unconscious patient, where management of a clear and open airway is vital and action needs to be taken fast to reduce the amount of oxygen not reaching the brain,” Scott says.
“If children learn these skills at a young age, they become more confident and prepared to deal with any situation.”
This year St John Ambulance unveiled a first aid skills in schools program that involves either half-day or full-day basic first aid training for year 5 and year 6 students in the ACT.
“Many schools have taken the opportunity for our trainers to come to classrooms and teach as many kids as possible about first aid,” Scott says.
But while the number of children learning first aid has increased, St John Ambulance is pushing for first aid training to be made compulsory for all Australian school students, starting from kindergarten onwards.
“At the moment, we come to schools where we are invited, but we are looking at building first aid in schools as a division, looking at a program where we have teachers deliver first aid as a subject,” Scott says.
“When it comes to having the skills to save a life, I can’t think of much else that is as important.”
For more information, visit cadets.stjohn.org.au