Is any course enough on its own?
Liz Baugh, Medical Training Consultant from Red Square Medical, gives her views...
My answer would be probably not. STCW First Aid and Medical Care courses are actually really well designed with all the essential topics covered and provide a good solid foundation, but once you return back on board the skill fade has already begun.
After 4 or 5 weeks you feel confident, you can remember that to do Basic Life Support you need to push hard on the chest and give mouth to mouth if you are able. You know that if you don’t apply direct digital pressure to a bleeding wound, it may become life threatening and if you have done your STCW training recently you should have learnt how to apply a tourniquet in accordance with the latest changes in bleeds management.
Now, move ahead 2 years. No major incidents have occurred on board, thank goodness, but can you remember key points?
- How do you put someone in the recovery position?
- What are the critical times when it comes to crushing injuries?
- How much oxygen should you use?
- How do you draw up and administer an injection?
- How does your traction device work?
- What information must you give to the helicopter crew?
Things become hazy, you can patch it all together and chances are it will work – to a degree. Is that good enough? Are you happy to settle for that? Surely it’s better to be prepared? Confidence and competence are only gained when you practice regularly.
A career in the Royal Navy taught me many lessons but by far the most valuable was “train hard”. What does that mean?
All seafarers are required to have an internationally recognised qualification and the STCW training gives them that. What it doesn’t give you in the case of first aid and medical care is sector specific competence. Carrying out medical care on a luxury yacht with lots of equipment available is different to carrying out medical care on a small coastal vessel with just a basic kit list. The hazards are different, the compartments may be more challenging. The passengers may have medical conditions that crew don’t or a yacht may have tenders that present their own unique set of potential problems.
So, what is the solution?
Firstly, ensure that the training provider you choose for your STCW course is of a good reputation with modern facilities and instructors that are current and proactive in their fields of expertise.
Anyone familiar with the Maritime Skills Academy in Dover will already know that it is a centre of excellence with state of the art facilities and a flexible approach to companies and crews training needs, but did you know that the Maritime Skills Academy can deliver the STCW Elementary First Aid, Medical First Aid, Proficiency in Medical Care and the Proficiency in Medical Care Refresher on board your vessel or in a location to suit you? They provide all the equipment and liaise with you to ensure that all your training needs are met. Bringing the courses to you means that we can simulate the rescue, assessment, stabilisation, packaging and transportation of your casualty to give you a real sense of how it would feel. Red Square Medical work in partnership with the Maritime Skills Academy as their First Aid and Medical Care Specialist
So, is STCW training ashore or onboard enough? Again, probably not, which leads me onto my other point about training hard.
Take those fantastic courses and put them into practice on board your vessel. Make it relevant, challenge yourselves and improve your procedures. Create realistic drills that allow you to develop crew confidence. Make sure you know what kit you have, where it is kept and most importantly know how to use it!
What is the future for first aid and medical care on board? Telemedicine is the ultimate solution and one that is already accessible to many. Does it replace all of the above training? Absolutely not! If you can’t apply direct pressure to a wound to stop the bleeding then who else will!
If I may indulge for a moment, going back to the train hard mantra. I remember my first serious casualty on board a ship at sea. I had trained and trained and trained for just such a moment. I had been pushed harder by my instructors than I thought I was capable of. The alarm went off and suddenly everything became crystal clear. I knew exactly what I had to do and as I made my way to the scene of the incident I repeated the Primary Survey under my breath….Danger, Response, Airway, Breathing, Circulation. On scene there was very little for me to do because the First Aid party had not only assessed but stabilised the casualty. I administered Morphine for the pain and gave Oxygen then updated the bridge. We all trained hard together which meant this real situation was dealt with swiftly and effectively with little direction needed from myself, the medical team leader. We successfully handed over and evacuated a stable casualty who survived to tell the tale. I shall always aspire to that level of confidence and competence with all that I work with.
Source: Liz Baugh - Red Square Medical
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