The ski trip (see previous post) gave me a rare opportunity to practice my First Aid skills and learn from on-piste paramedics (ski patrol!) before Antarctica.

As teachers we had to backmark the groups who were having lessons. With the instructor at the front this meant that we were often left with the injured. Although I never came across anything more serious that a dislocated knee cap – and thankfully ski patrol were on hand to diagnose that one – I was still able to practice simple things.

Here are three tips for trips!

  • Take a medical history. Not only where it hurts, but also:
    • What sort of pain is it?
    • On a scale of 1-10 how bad is the pain?
    • What makes the pain worse/better?
    • Have you experienced anything like this before? – this was the one the ski patrol who dealt with the dislocated knee didn’t ask. It would have saved a lot of time lying in the cold snow, as apparently the girl’s other knee does it regularly.
  • Check for broken bones and dislocated knees
  • Reassure the patient. There seem to be two aspects to this:
    • firstly give a probable/possible diagnosis so that there is less uncertainty as to what is wrong with them.
    • Secondly somehow, somewhere find the funny side.

The one thing that it is never going to be possible to practice, due to the excellent medical care nearly always close at hand, is:

Looking after a patient for days in basic conditions until evacuation is possible.

To prepare for this I’ve been on Wilderness Medical Training’s ‘Far from Help’ course. For any teachers going on World Challenge or similar activities I thoroughly recommend this two/three day training event.

Not only is it interesting and useful, but it really boosts your confidence. On a practical side it allows you to buy antibiotics and strong painkillers which you can administer outside of the UK, when you’re far from help.

What are your views on First Aid? Is a little knowledge a dangerous thing? How much training is necessary for a theatre trip? … A ski trip? … A World Challenge? If you’re a First Aider, how have you used your training?