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My First Aid Experience

Other than my Elementary First Aid certificate, which was taken as part of my STCW Basic Safety Training, most of my first aid experience has been either of the veterinary kind or as the casualty! So when OMT gave me the opportunity to join the upcoming MCA Proficiency in Medical First Aid course I jumped at the chance.


About me

After growing up in Cowes on the Isle of Wight surrounded by boats I decided a career in horses rather than the open sea was for me (hence the veterinary reference) I then had an opportunity to sail from Miami to Antigua where I was flung back into the world of yachting. I worked 2 years as shore logistics for a charter company where I continued to build up my sailing skills and sea miles including 2 transatlantic.  I then worked on a couple of private super yachts as cook/stew/deck before becoming shore based and working for OMT as their Training Manager.


Real Life Needs First Aiders

In these roles onboard I took comfort in the fact that the Skipper at the very least would hold his MCA Proficiency in Medical Care certificate and would be able to cope with any injury inflicted by my infamous clumsiness but an incident that took place whilst racing in Sardinia highlighted how invaluable additional first aid training for any member of the crew could be.


Directly after the incident, which resulted in a nasty rope burn to the leg, it became evident that the only person who was free to deal with the 'casualty' was the stewardess. This also proved helpful as she was the one who knew where the first aid supply was! Although it was dealt with efficiently, the wound did later get infected. Now wether this was due to the inital care, which was administered by an Elementary First Aider, or the aftercare, which for those of you who know sailors could be very possible, is unclear but I am almost positive that a little more training in first aid administration could have proven invaluable. 


Getting Started

We started this 4 day (MFAS) course by being introduced to our instructor, who with a number of years (the exact number she wishes me not to divulge!) in the NHS as a nurse, midwife and health visitor, is a font of all medical knowledge and certainly had a story or two to tell. With introductions over it was down to the business. Learning what the roles and responsibilities of a first aider are and how it specifically applies to any position onboard. The main thing highlighted was Location, Location, Location. Isolation and lack of instant outside assistance when dealing with a casualty is one of the biggest things to contend with on any vessel.


We discussed precautions that should be taken, specific hazards of dealing with a casualty onboard as well as the kit and equipment you may have available to you. We then moved on to dealing with a casualty, how to assess the situation and what to do next dependent on what you have found. This then saw the introduction of our 2nd instructor 'Annie'. This is a CPR Resuscitation doll where we got up close and personal to refresh our CPR skills we learnt on our Elementary First Aid (this is also part of the practical assessment later on in the course) as well as familiarise ourselves with the Automated External Defibrillator.


We all then got a little lie down as we became casualties for each other to run through secondary survey!

The AED is a piece of equipment becoming more widely used in the industry. It encompasses some corporate responsibility and increases the survival rate for SCA (Sudden Cardiac Arrest) by up to 75% by delivering a life-saving shock within the few minutes of attack.

War Wounds and Down To Work

As a class we discussed how the body copes with injury as well as how to recognise shock, why it may becaused and how to treat it before getting to the nitty gritty of bleeding and wounds in preparation for the next day.
Our interests thoroughly peaked we arrived bright eyed and bushy tailed ready to share our gory stories and compare war wounds whilst we looked at a variety of different injuries and the difficulties that we might accompany each one. Then it was back to being inflicted with an assortment of wounds, which we assessed, dressed and bandaged.



Sue then decided bleeding profusely from a laceration to the arm wasn't enough but poor Hazel had also suffered a compound fracture to the leg, cracked pelvis and suspected spinal injury! Bring out the splints! After much hilarity and jokes of a pub lunch whilst Hazel remained splinted from head to toe, the reality of dealing with immobilising a casualty on a very mobile vessel seemed almost an impossible task, but with Sues guidance, helpful tips and reassurance we all felt we would be able to accomplish this should we ever find ourselves in that situation.


Having worked in the galley of most of my boats I can fully appreciate that burns and scalds can be painful and more then often incorrectly treated (a quick splash under the cold tap just doesn't cut it!) and I am sure many, if not all of you, have felt the effects of too much sun, but do you know what to do with a chemical burn? What percentage classes a critical burn? And what about treating those burns you can't see? All of this and much more was covered throughout the afternoon.



Over the next couple of days we also covered very likely situations you may come across when at sea such as hpothermia/hyperthermia (let's face it we've all been sat on watch, not feeling our best, on a little sleep battling the elements of polished endless stainless in the unforgiven Caribbean sun) drowning, secondary drowning and cold water shock as well as medical emergencies like angina, heart attack, seizures, allergic reactions, asthma attacks, diabetes and choking (I must comment here that the choking vest was particulalry great fun and gave you a true to life experience of administering the heimlich manoevure).


Having worked in the industry and now successfully completed this course is was highlighted to me how First Aid can often be overlooked. You will also find that vessels have a full spectrum of kit and equipment onboard but perhaps few crew who have the training to use it.  Guest and crew and working parties (particularly race and delivery) provide constant unknown entities with often incomplete or unknown medical histories and the ‘man up’ culture of the marine industry results in medical conditions often becoming evident when an incident is more serious. You may require this training as part of a higher qualification or perhaps you are considering taking it to increase you employability but I would highly recommend this course for any one in any position onboard. Whether stewardess, tender driver, deckhand or bosun there will be situations whether with guests or crew where you are the first person on the scene and any first aid you can administer in those first minutes could be lifesaving and this course is designed to educate a little more on how to react in real life situations.  

I only hope now I get the opportunity to learn how to stitch and cannulate in the Proficiency in Medical Care course!!

Until next time