Tonight I had a phone call at about 1630 hrs asking for assistance with teaching first aid for a group of young people at 1830. If there was no one to help the night would be cancelled for around 80 young people.
I agreed and took on a group of around 20 young people aged 13 – 18-years. We looked at the basics of assessing an unconscious patient, which went well. However, when it came to assessing a conscious patient, it became apparent much of the learning was rote learning of the process and knowledge of the what and why needed some work.
While practical activities were going on I thought to myself, does rote learning actually still have a place in first aid teaching? I then asked myself what would first aid education be like without rote learning?
In first aid, learning by rote provides a person with a process to follow in an emergency, which is useful for remembering what to do stressful situations. For example, for an unconscious patient, we use DRSABC or Danger, Response, Send for Help, Airway, Breathing, Circulation.
I posed a question to the group, is rote learning a process good enough to apply to all situations?
With this in mind, I asked students to work in pairs. Number 1 is a first aider and number 2 the patient. The patient was to think of something that is wrong with them, and the first aider asks questions to learn what is wrong. As expected, the students predominantly used closed-ended questions and a rote-learned process which did not go beyond these. We then discussed trust and using communication skills to collect information.
I introduced the SAMPLE (Signs and Symptoms, Allergies, Medications, Past History, Last Meal, Events Prior) pneumonic with the rider that they need to find out as much as they can with as few questions as possible. While doing this using all of their senses to gather information about a situation. This also went very well with all of the cadets engaging, participating, using teamwork and respecting the needs of each other. The information gathered was more rich and complete than in the initial exercise.
Therefore, in doing this exercise, we learned that there is a need rote learning (e.g. SAMPLE), but it is the way we use this and formulate questions and gather information is key.
Another key piece of learning for me today was by way of a reminder that learning can be fun and educational.
One of the younger children (11 years) who had been in the group being taught alongside my group came up as I was leaving. He asked, are you coming to teach us again? I replied that I would be happy to fill in if need be but I couldn’t be there every week. I asked why he wanted to know and he replied that he would be old enough to be in the group I was teaching in two years and he thought that the teaching and learning the group I was with was both “work and fun”.
This reminded me, not only, why I became a teacher for adults and children. But what I value the most about my day job and volunteer job. Adapting what I do to meet the needs of learners by providing education in a way that is meaningful for them.
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