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Anita Brown, Chartered FCSI, has been a volunteer first aider for over 11 years with the British Red Cross and, more recently, St Andrew’s First Aid.
The challenging volunteering duties help to take her mindset “to a totally different place” from her extremely busy day job as Investment Manager at Quilter Cheviot’s Glasgow office, where she has worked for the past 14 years. Thankfully, says Anita, she has rarely been called upon to use her first aid skills in the office.
New experiencesHowever, her volunteering has allowed her to work at a large variety of events around Glasgow, where her duties are based. Anita says: “Over the years I have covered everything from small school fetes to large stadium concerts, the Special Olympics, Commonwealth Games, Pipe Band Championships, music festivals and football games. You never know what might happen while on duty – it could be the busiest football match and nothing happens, or it could be the smallest country fair where you are rushed off your feet.
“I enjoy helping people and I get a great sense of satisfaction at the end of a duty that I have done something useful – even if there hasn’t been any first aid required! There is also a great camaraderie amongst the first aiders and it is a constant learning process."
To qualify as a volunteer first aider, Anita initially had to obtain a Standard First Aid certificate, which is renewed every three years with annual assessments. Additional training is ongoing and includes: the use of an automated external defibrillator; moving and handling training, which shows how to safely move casualties and equipment; and scenario-based learning. Continuing professional development is also carried out at group training nights, which provide volunteers with additional information on a wide range of subjects, such as allergies.
Anita also holds the First Aid at Work qualification, which meets the standards required to comply with Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations, and specifically covers the treatment of adults in the workplace. Indeed, she originally became a volunteer after attending one of the refresher courses for this qualification, which too needs to be renewed every three years. The course provider, the British Red Cross, mentioned that it was always looking for volunteers. Anita says: “I thought this was an ideal way to keep my skills up to date, while also doing something interesting and worthwhile in my spare time.”
In 2007, Anita was awarded the British Red Cross Badge of Honour for Devoted Service. In 2014, she joined St Andrew’s First Aid. Its mission statement is to “provide Scotland with the highest standards in first aid skills, services and volunteering opportunities”.
Anita loves the flexibility that volunteering as a first aider allows: “How much you want to do depends on your own time constraints – I attend group training meetings once a week and usually try to do at least a couple of duties each month.”
In Anita’s experience, the reasons that people need first aid treatment can vary greatly: “From trips, falls, cuts, burns, substance abuse to pre-existing medical conditions. When you respond to a call, or come across a casualty, you never quite know what you are going to come up against – that is why we train on a regular basis.
“We have to have good people skills, be able to think on our feet, possess the ability to take control of a situation if required and – of course – be able to reassure the casualty. First aiders always work in pairs when on duty at an event, and are part of a larger team, so we are never left to deal with a situation on our own. A sense of humour and a willingness to help are also prerequisites.”
Something for everyoneOne aspect of first aid services that Anita would like to see developed is basic first aid training. She would make it a part of the school curriculum and compulsory for new parents. People can need first aid at any time – for anything from a simple cut finger to a heart attack, whether it is in the home, office or in the street. “First aid isn’t difficult; most of it is just common sense.” Anita would encourage everyone to learn even a little basic first aid.
“Each of us has it in us to make a difference – and potentially save a life.”
If you are interested in volunteering as a first aider visit the following sites for details:
This article was originally published in the March 2016 edition of The Review. The print edition is available to all members who opt in to receive it, except student members. All eligible members who would like to receive future editions in the post should log in to MyCISI, click on My Account/Communications and set their preference to 'Yes'.