ARE WE TRAINING LIFEGUARDS OR PARAMEDICS?

Keep the training straightforward and not so spectacular
By Lloyd Plueschow
Modern lifeguard training should focus on the rudiments of good lifeguarding. It makes no practical sense to introduce advanced skills like oral pharyngeal airways (OPAs), manual suction, and cervical collars, particularly if EMS is close at hand, when pool deck management and basic first aid skills are lacking. Lifeguards do need solid first aid skills, but not at the expense of basic scanning skills, rescue skills, and situational (sits) role responsibilities.
Lifeguards do provide professional first aid
Lifeguards should be adept at the standard first aid (SFA) level. The difference here is that they are doing it at a professional level. The response should always remain within the scope of the job; lifeguards are not paramedics and paramedics are not lifeguards. At some point, a line of minimum basic care must be drawn. Consider as well, that changes are always coming – Auto Defibrillators are making their way into more and more public areas. Lifeguards today have more in-depth first aid training than ambulance attendants (now called EMTs and Paramedics) did in the 1960s. There are some techniques lifeguards carry out that are not taught to the general public and are expected by EMS to be preformed by the lifeguards. These include:
• In depth spinal cord injury management.
• Basic skin closure techniques.
• The ability to focus on a patient, and still respond to relevant external critical signals such as a two-way radio or other sources.
• Oxygen equipment.
Are advanced skills a waste of time?
No, but they should reflect what is needed and should be provided by the respective employer to address specific needs. The level of treatment provided would be in relation to the EMS response – the longer the expected wait, the greater the care provided; in most large communities, this is not an issue. NLS training should focus on the rudiments of professional lifeguarding, and be broad-based; the successful candidate would be able to gain employment in most aquatic environments. This training would include:
• A thorough understanding of the job of a lifeguard.
• I clear comprehension of attention to task and the follies of distracted guarding.
• Thorough applied understanding of scanning. This is what we do most of the time so let’s keep the training focused here. The job is prevention.
• Well-entrenched rescue skills including spinals.
• A comprehensive applied understanding of role guidelines on the handling of major emergencies, minor emergencies, and public relations.
• This includes a clear application of “shift to cover” and back up.
• The specific role and function of each guard in the emergency or situation and in general, and the ability to role shift in a logical manner.
• Fitness. (Get your class to do one-rescuer CPR, for 5 minutes non-stop.)
• In-depth Standard First Aid skills. These include:
• Rock-solid Scene Assessment and Primary Assessment skills.
• Minor wounds, bleeds, scrapes, minor bone and joint injuries, and burns should all be a no-brainer.
• Total immersion in all modalities of CPR.
• A good basic knowledge of typical medical emergencies.
• Doing a proper SAMPLE interview.
• Complete a thorough head to toe examination when appropriate.
• Knowing when to do a “local examination” instead.
• Confidently obtaining a set of vitals at regular intervals AND recording the clock time of each.
• Detailed reporting skills.
In a nutshell, let’s train Lifeguards to Lifeguard, and while we’re at it – make it fun.
Lifeguard Lloyd