To begin with this article was going to be called Get Qualified.
One of the reasons there are so many training providers competing in this saturated market is because there are so few barriers to entry. The minimum requirement to deliver an accredited First Aid at Work course is:
- A current First Aid at Work qualification. (3 days)
- A formal training qualification with the minimum being, typically a “Level 3 Award in Education and Training”. (5 days)
- A formal assessing qualification with the minimum being, typically, “Level 3 Award in Understanding the Principles and Practices of Assessment”. (1 day)
The last two can be completed in one 5 day course such as the “Level 3 Award in Teaching and Assessing First Aid Qualification”*.
So once you have achieved you First Aid at Work course, after a week spent learning how to teach first aid, you can now go out and teach that course, even if that I the very limit of your first aid knowledge. Getting qualified to teach first aid is not enough.
And here is the problem.
Because it is so easy to become a first aider trainer, why not become a first aid trainer? You will also need some equipment but as far as business start-ups go the minimum requirements are a small financial investment.
Can you think of any other profession whereby the trainer is charging you to read a PowerPoint presentation to you, regurgitating the course they have only just attended and without ever having done the things they are telling you to do?
There are three reasons there is such a high attrition rate in this industry:
- Those who go it alone after being sold their magic beans and the promise of easy money realise that actually it can be very difficult to begin with and they give up.
- Those who seek freelance work don’t find any because they have no experience. Those who do find freelance work are often not asked again because they are…rubbish.
- Those who invest in themselves to become incredible trainers realise they are competing on price with lower standard trainers who are happy to do it for peanuts because form them it is a bit of pocket money to supplement their existing job or pension.
The first step in securing regular work is to become credible. This means exceeding the minimum requirement.
First aid knowledge
You need to know more than you are teaching so that you have a wider and deeper knowledge of the subject. How do you expect to answer candidates questions if you do not fully understand what you are teaching?
If you cannot answer simple questions, fully and with evidence or a source, such as “How does a defibrillator work?”, “What does CPR actually do?”, “Will I be sued?” or “What causes a seizure?” it is not just unethical to be charging people for your ‘knowledge’ it is also potentially dangerous.
When you stand in front of a group of people as the trainer, candidates will take what you have to say as authority and they will act upon it. If you tell them to do something, they are likely to follow your instructions because that is what they have been taught. Should anything go wrong based upon what you have taught people, come the inquest, the first question to be asked will be “who taught you to do this?”
When you are charging people for your knowledge, to simply answer “You don’t need to know that” is unacceptable. Candidates have a right to ask you questions and you have an obligation to give them a correct answer (within the scope of their training – no one is expected to know everything).
As a minimum we would not employ anyone to deliver a basic first aid course for us without a minimum of a pre-hospital care qualification such as First Person on Scene or First Response Emergency Care.
Before you even think about becoming a First Aid trainer, get yourself on another, higher level course.
First aid experience
Go out and get some first aid experience by
- Volunteering with one of the voluntary ambulance services
- Become a Community First Responder
- Volunteer as a first aider within your current workplace
- Work at public events as a First Aider
How can anyone teach someone to do something they have never done? How can someone realistically assess something they have never seen in action?
There are some things that we teach that we may never had experience of; acid burns are currently en vogue following high-profile chemical attacks in the media. I have never dealt with an acid burn to the face but, I have dealt with acid burns elsewhere and I have dealt with thermal burns to the face.
Experience in CPR is difficult if you are not working full-time in healthcare. They are more common in an elderly setting and following drowning. I am not suggesting you seek out vulnerable adults in care homes or swimming pools and wait with anticipation for a cardiac arrest! You do not need to have experience in dealing with everything but you must have, at the very least, some experience in actually treating basic injuries and dealing with common medical conditions.
A first aid trainer who has never dealt with a casualty is always going to lose out on work to those who have actually done first aid.
Learn to teach
This is often the most neglected aspect of teaching first aid. It is very easy to focus on the first aid side of things but remember, you are being employed to teach it, not do it. You may be reading this as an experience paramedic, nurse or doctor and thinking that teaching first aid is a natural side-line.
No one can question your knowledge and experience far exceeds the requirements to teach first aid but can you actually teach it?
How often do we sit on a course or in a lecture with a genuine subject matter expert in front of us but learn nothing? This may be that whilst they have a brain the size of a planet, they cannot actually break it down into layman’s terms so the candidates simply don’t understand the point they are trying to put across. They can’t actually pass on their knowledge.
Having the ability to say “While the textbook will describe this and that is what you will be assessed on, in reality you may find that X happens / it often looks more like Y / doing Z instead can often work better” adds an incredible amount to the learning process and prepares candidates better for real-life experiences.
Your own personal experiences help contextualise and reinforce but being a trainer is more than just recounting war stories. Filling a course with endless stories of your heroism is a guaranteed way to ruin a course:
- If it is not relevant learners will switch off
- If it is done too much you are taking away time from what you should be teaching
- If you set yourself on a pedestal it is possible to completely disenfranchise the candidates; they are there to learn basic first aid yet they are now concerned they will never have the skills or knowledge that you have lead them to believe are required to be as awesome as you.
While deciding if first aid training is for you find opportunities to observe other peoples’ courses. Observe other trainers critically and identify what they do well and what you would do differently.
Your knowledge and experience in first aid is what adds value to any course you deliver but it will always be your teaching ability which will secure regular work.
* Whilst we have no allegiance to any particular qualification or awarding organisation we would always advise individuals to avoid ‘First Aid Instructor’ courses. A generic award in education or training will prepare you to deliver any subject, will be recognised by a wider range of Awarding Organisations and is more likely to be accepted as a prerequisite to deliver other certificated training course. This is particularly important if you plan to diversify into delivering other courses.
A “First Aid Instructor” qualification may not be accepted by all Awarding Organisations and is limited to delivering on First Aid