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First aid for adventurous types

14:25 8th July 2013 By Fi Spotswood
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Emergency Care in Remote Environments

Qualified outdoor instructor Paul Vousden reflects on the relevance and practicality of a first aid course for the outdoors he attended to keep his outdoor instructor’s qualifications alive. But now with bomber skills in mountainside first aid delivery, he has decided it’s not just a waist of a weekend. With his new found confidence, Paul gives us the low down on his latest first aid frolics.

Paul Vousden gets up close and personal on his weekend first aid course for the outdoors

Paul Vousden gets up close and personal on his weekend first aid course for the outdoors

First aid courses are usually a pretty dull way to spend 16 hours; time spent on an essential skill you hope you will never use, yet one you fear you will forget when you need it. I have endured many courses over the years to keep my outdoor instructing qualifications valid. In fact 16 hours of first aid training every 3 years is the very minimum you must do for the relevant governing bodies to validate your qualifications.

The problem is that you usually sit down for a long time, in a lovely office, learning about tripping over in high heels, or cutting off a finger with a band saw. Less than useful for me. I have always left the traditional courses dreading what I would actually do on the mountain, further away from help, and with a tiny first aid kit.

This year, however, I found a brilliant course tailor-made for me and other outdoor enthusiasts and professionals. It has given me more confidence in the practicality of my tiny first aid kit, and taught me useful skills I hadn’t even considered I needed.

Learning first aid in the mountains - no band saws or high heels in sight.

Learning first aid in the mountains – no band saws or high heels in sight.

The course starts with CPR, but goes beyond the usual run through. Things like dealing with your casualty if they have a helmet on, or are laid on a steep slope; how can you continue CPR for longer while you wait for help? (Get your feet, knees, elbows and mates involved). There is lots to CPR, but I have had two important aspects I will never forget drilled into me. Keep the airway open, and keep pumping by whatever means.

“Keep the airway open, and keep pumping by whatever means”

There was just stacks of useful information delivered from the experienced Mountain Rescue instructors at this course. Things like how to wrap your casualty up in a bivi bag while protecting the spine and head and how to get into an effective recovery position while on a slope with rocks in the way. This was something I admit to never having considered before.

The most radically different approach of this course is the understanding that the first aid equipment you are likely to be carrying will be very small, if it even exists at all.  This is not frowned upon here, in fact we were encouraged to improvise with the mantra, ‘you can’t go wrong if you’re trying your best’. Gaffa tape and ‘base layer bandages’, karrimat splints, and log for rolling your casualty to safety; it all gets encouraged. I feel a lot more confident than I have ever done in the past with getting someone fixed up and off the hill.

Paul’s top 5 tips from the course:

  1. Get that airway open, make sure your casualty can breath.
  2. Examine your casualty thoroughly, know the big picture.
  3. Give Mountain Rescue all this information so they can act fast if needed.
  4. Help is further away than you think, so look after your casualty with that in mind.
  5. Use whatever stuff you can to stop bleeding, but make sure you are safe too.

For more information visit http://www.mountaintrauma.co.uk/courses/emergency-care-in-remote-environments-basic-2.php

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