I have always had a good awareness of first aid and how to perform CPR from being a lifeguard in my teens, acting as a first aider in the workplace and also teaching lifesaving to young people in the swimming pool. It felt like quite a natural progression 3 years ago to become a first aid instructor and helped to reinforce my skills even further. Whilst completing my instructor training I heard about the Community First Responder Scheme run by most Ambulance services across the country.

Community First Responders (CFRs) are volunteers, trained by the ambulance service to respond to category 1 emergency calls which are for people with life-threatening injuries and illnesses. Because CFRs only respond to emergencies in the area where they live or work, they can arrive at the scene shortly before an ambulance gets there and start life-saving medical treatment immediately. I became a CFR with South Central Ambulance Service in September 2017.

A few days ago I had a very sobering experience, in my role as a CFR I was called to attend a cardiac arrest, fortunately I wasn’t the first person on scene so I arrived to assist a solo paramedic. I took over CPR and continued to do this for 8 minutes until the ambulance crew arrived with the Lucas Device which is an automated CPR machine, it delivers chest compressions at exactly the right rate and depth and unlike us mere mortals, it never tires!

As a CFR I have to do a re-qualification session every 6 months to remain operational, it was rather fortuitous that on the previous morning I had attended my re-qualification session so I had been practicing CPR only the day before. We had been using a high tech resuscitation manikin that tells you how effective your CPR is depending on the rate and depth of the compressions so I had reminded myself of exactly how it needs to be done effectively.

This made me think about how essential it is to keep these skills current; would I have felt so confident attending this emergency if I hadn’t just attended my re-qualification? I hope that I would but it made me want to highlight to other people the need for practicing these skills.

I know lots of people attend first aid courses every year so are very familiar with CPR but as the qualification is valid for 3 years there is very little opportunity to practice in between courses and skills can fade. You never know when you might need it, people can have a cardiac arrest whether they are young or old, one of my fellow CFRs had to do CPR on her husband when he suffered a sudden cardiac arrest, he was only in his thirties when this happened. He owes his life to the fact that she is a CFR and had a defibrillator in her car.

Sadly survival rates from cardiac arrest in the UK are extremely low and part of this is due to poor bystander CPR, mainly because people are unwilling to have a go. When asked why they wouldn’t want to attempt CPR people state that they are worried that that may do something wrong or hurt the patient. So I guess my message is simple, sign up to a first aid course to keep your qualification valid, download the Save a Life app which will tells you where your nearest defibrillator is and take any opportunity you get to practice these skills to keep them current just in case you have to use them, hopefully you never will!

To access Level 3 Emergency First Aid at Work dates click here.