DS Vickram did not want the skills and experience he had gained as a medic to go to waste upon completing his National Service. It was this noble aspiration that spurred him to become a Senior Associate Instructor with the Singapore Red Cross Academy's Centre for First Aid and Life Support (CFALS). In conjunction with World First Aid Day on the second Saturday of September, and Teachers’ Day on 1 September, DS Vickram shares his experiences as a first aid trainer and the benefits of learning first aid.
When DS Vickram thought about how his vocation as a medic could benefit society once his National Service (NS) enlistment ended, training and volunteering came to mind. Through word of mouth, he heard about the first aid training run by the Singapore Red Cross Academy (SRCA). SRCA offers first aid courses that cater to all ages and needs as part of the Civil pillar of Singapore’s Total Defence Strategy, which includes First Aid training as part of ‘instilling confidence and resilience in times of national crisis.’1 Now aged 29, Vickram is a Senior Associate Instructor at SRCA's Centre for First Aid and Life Support (CFALS).
For Vickram, learning first aid is important because it equips individuals with the crucial skills required to assist during emergencies, which can potentially save lives and mitigate the severity of injuries.
“It’s a fundamental skill that empowers individuals to respond effectively when accidents or medical crises occur,” he explains.
Training First Aid and its Challenges
The duration of first aid training courses varies. Basic courses often take a day or two, while more comprehensive programmes are conducted over several days. In Vickram’s experience, challenges in teaching first aid include imparting complex medical information in an engaging and comprehensible manner. It is also important to adapt to different learning styles. Within the short span of time he has with the learners, he encourages and motivates them to keep building on their skills.
Overcoming these challenges involves leveraging interactive teaching methods, real-life examples, hands-on practice, and incorporating multimedia resources provided by SRCA. SRCA also provides an exceptional support system for its roster of trainers. The invaluable guidance from seasoned mentors and the enduring friendships cultivated over the years have profoundly shaped Vickram into the person he is today. He believes the importance of walking in the learner's shoes to identify the gaps in understanding, and to close them.
"I strongly believe the best way to retain the knowledge learnt in the classroom is to put the first aid knowledge and skills acquired into practice. First aid duties and volunteer events offer excellent platforms to put one's first aid skills and knowledge to the test," he says.
The Rewards of Teaching First Aid
He derives fulfilment in the knowledge that he has equipped individuals with the ability to respond effectively during emergencies.
“The most memorable and rewarding aspect of teaching first aid is seeing participants gain the confidence and skills to potentially save lives,” Vickram shares.
He recounted an incident that occurred at a Halloween event at Canberra Community Centre in Sembawang.
"It was pouring heavily, and a woman slipped and hit her head against the wall, sustaining an injury with profuse bleeding," he shares.
Vickram and his fellow Community Emergency and Engagement (C2E) teammates swiftly attended to her, called the Emergency Medical Service, and stemmed the bleeding before she was conveyed to the hospital for further assessment. C2E committees comprise volunteers like Vickram. Collectively, they bolster community resilience in times of emergencies, the ability of the community to recover from adversity.
At the World Blood Donor Day event held at the Singapore Expo on 17 June 2023, Vickram volunteered at the first aid booth, where he demonstrated Cardio-Pulmonary Respiration (CPR) and the usage of the Automated External Defibrillator (AED) to visitors. A few days later, he was heartened to see some people whom he met at the event learn first aid at SRCA. They shared that their positive experience at the first aid booth inspired them to register for first aid training.
Prerequisites of Being a First Aid Trainer
Besides a certification in the First Aid Instructor course and instructor certificates in life-support courses, a trainer also needs to have effective communication and coaching skills. Having the right attitude, patience, receptiveness to feedback and passion to coach and guide learners are also important traits for trainers to possess.
"By educating and empowering others, a first aid trainer can make a tangible difference in emergencies. There is ongoing learning and personal growth that comes with teaching. It is a rewarding feeling to contribute to community safety and potentially save lives," he says.
Benefits of Knowing First Aid
According to Vickram, first aid not only benefits individuals but also contributes to a kinder, gracious and more compassionate society.
"Armed with first aid skills, individuals can provide immediate assistance to people in need. This support is crucial in stabilising a situation before medical help arrives. First aid fosters a sense of unity and compassion in society as people safeguard each other’s safety and well-being,” Vickram says.
People trained in first aid are a boon to society. Within families, schools, workplaces, and in public spaces, they enhance safety and preparedness by being able to respond effectively to emergencies.
"The ability to render first aid is vital in situations such as accidents or the sudden onset of illnesses. Identifying people who require first aid involves being attentive to signs such as breathing difficulties, severe bleeding, chest pain, or disorientation. Equipped with the training and experience, one can assess the situation and the person’s condition to determine if first aid is required. This may lead to better outcomes," explains Vickram.
First Aid is not merely about helping people. The knowledge gained from the training is also applicable for self-care in various situations. For example, understanding how to treat minor wounds, manage choking or recognise symptoms of a heart attack will enable an individual to take swift action when faced with personal health issues.
"Practising self-care is not merely about physical health; it also includes mental and emotional well-being. Assisting in or taking control of a traumatic situation may take a toll on one's mental and emotional health. Practising self-care is also an important component of first aid. Engaging in activities that reduce stress, seeking support when needed, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle are all part of effective self-care,” Vickram shares.
Vickram extends his heartfelt appreciation to all his fellow First Aid Trainers for their invaluable role in equipping individuals with life-saving skills.
“Their dedication to educating others in First Aid may leave a lasting impact by safeguarding the well-being of our communities,” Vickram says.
As World First Aid Day approaches, Vickram encourages everyone to consider the invaluable impact of learning first aid or becoming an instructor.
“Learning first aid not only empowers the individual but also enables a person to become a potential lifesaver for others. It is a tangible way to contribute to the well-being of the community and society as a whole. First aid skills and knowledge can make a difference in an emergency. The more people who are trained in first aid, the safer our world becomes,” he says.
1 - Matthews, Ron and Fitriani Bintang Timur, ‘Singapore’s ‘Total Defence’ Strategy’, Defence and Peace Economics, (2023), p. 10 <https://doi.org/10.1080/10242694.2023.2187924>.
By Michelle Tanmizi, Volunteer
Copyedited by Shahirah Mohamed Ansari, Volunteer
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