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'What is our responsibility as student nurses in emergency situations?'

  • Comments (8)

An elderly gentlemen was knocked from his scooter after a collision with the back of a car.

I found myself reacting quickly; I put my hazard lights on and ran over to the middle lane of the roundabout.

I found the gentleman unconscious and his breathing laboured. But what is our responsibility as student nurses in emergency situations?

When I arrived on the scene, I ensured that I spoke loudly and clearly when I introduced myself, and ascertained his level of consciousness. Luckily, I didn’t have to wait long before a first aider arrived on the scene.

I was thankful that she arrived because although my previous healthcare assistant (HCA) training had taught me what was required in an emergency (albeit in a hospital situation), I am not a first aider. As student nurses we have a responsibility to respond to such events, but we must all be careful and know our own limitations with regards to knowledge and competence.

Even though we set out with the best of intentions, I don’t think we should put ourselves at risk in the process. In an adrenalin-filled moment it is easy to get carried away; our duty is to try to minimise the risk to the patient, while waiting for the experts to arrive.

The incident itself was quite distressing for those who witnessed it, but according to the A&E department the gentlemen is well on the way to recovery, thanks in part to the actions of those who were first on the scene.

If you do happen to find yourself in a similar situation, all you can do is be prepared.

So finding the time to get some good first-aid training is always highly recommended; you don’t really know when you might need it.

Adam Roxby is Student Editor of Student Nursing Times. Follow him on Twitter @AdamRoxby

  • Comments (8)

Readers' comments (8)

  • Anonymous

    By joining your local St John Ambulance unit, you will be trained in first aid (for free, if you volunteer at events) and be covered by their insurance, and with a St John Mentor you are able to practice as a student nurse.

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  • Little One

    We are trained in First Aid as part of our University training by St Johns. It sounds very heartless to say but a qualified friend of mine has always said "Unless they drop dead in front of you, do not get involved". We will be judged as (Student) Nurses and not First Aiders and if we do anything wrong not only can you get sued but could be struck off before you even start. I have stopped and helped when I was walking home with my chippy tea and found a woman unconcious, turned out she was just very drunk and was ok but still, in a lot of situations I would still feel unsure of what to do and wouldn't want to risk doing more harm than good. Maybe it's selfish to worry about yourself but in this cash4accidents culture it certainly factors into my concerns.

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  • _Ryan_

    I am a second year student nurse and also practice as a St. Andrews Ambulance First Aider. I have been involved in quite a number of incidents and covered the first aid for quite a few events. Since starting and have gained a good amount of experience.

    With the training I have been given I am quite confident in attending an incident.

    I am also a community first responder for the Scottish Ambulance Service so I keep myself very busy.

    Without this extra training though, as just a student nurse I would not be anywhere near as competent in treating outside the hospital setting. First Aid is a different ball game.

    The important thing I try and remember is not to forget what 'hat' I am wearing. Outside the hospital setting I would introduce myself as a First Aider to a casualty.

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  • Adam Roxby

    Again it is my great pleasure to respond to some of the comments.

    Anonymous – I often found myself very close to joining the St John's ambulance but are not sure what stopped me in the past. Maybe it is because I think I have so many things going on that I don't have the time to spare in any meaningful way. However this event and the concerning lack of knowledge that some students have about first aid has inspired me to reconsider. Thanks.

    Little One – as part of our emergency life-support training we were told to get in contact with St John's ambulance. It was something that students had to do proactively. I think you are very right in that there is a cultural year amongst students that the risk of doing something wrong outweighs any potential benefit that they could bring. We want to do our best for people that we see in harm but the fear that we will might be sued he's just parallelising at times.

    Ryan – I seem to be seeing a pattern, getting the experience of a voluntary first aid organisation is very useful. It interesting point you raise about what ‘hat’ you are wearing. I have known students to get a little ahead of themselves at times.

    Well, thanks all these comments. Perhaps in the future you will be reading an article about how I get on with the St John's ambulance!

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  • I find myself agreeing with Ryan. I was fortunate as a student in that I had received first aid training in the scouts and then from St John Ambulance. For my first year elective placement some friends and I got together and ran a First Aid at Work course for ourselves so we were certified first aiders. Students lacking this training may well not be able to respond to emergencies in the community with confidence and indeed capability.

    As a student I responded to two cardiac arrests and a motorcycle accident outside hospital and used skills I had gained through my First Aid training. My nursing training would not have been adequate for the pre-hospital setting.

    Capability is the crux of the issue as I see it. You do what you are capable of and confident to do. The Code states that a nurse must be able to demonstrate that they have acted in the patients best interest if they have provided care in an emergency. Students are not BOUND by the code but are ASSESSED by it when it comes to registration.

    This is why we do not wear our uniforms outside work. While an experienced A&E nurse may be excellent at pre-hospital management of an MI, a student nurse may not be. The general public will expect the same level of care from either and cannot tell the difference by simply looking.

    There has been talk in recent years of first aid becoming a larger part of the pre-registration nursing curriculum. I would welcome this as I'm sure would most people.

    My advice to concerned student nurses would be to observe the situationfrom a distance, ensure the management of the situation is adequate and that the patient is not coming to any harm. Offer advice and assistance if you think the person is in danger of harm from inappropriate treatment.

    If you do participate in pre-hospital care make a record of the incident and email or post it to yourself in case there are any repercussions down the line.

    These are difficult situations to manage even for trained, experienced, equipped professionals and there is no great expectation of student nurses to save the day. If you really want to be able to help in such situations get some training from organisations that specialise in it. Good luck and God bless!

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  • Adam Roxby

    Hello domL
    I suppose I have been lucky that the experiences I have had outside of the hospital setting have not been a serious.
    You also mentioned a good point about wearing uniform outside of work. Apart from the infection control fears there is the added level of expectation placed on you if you take the risk and go out in your full regalia.
    Finally, I also would welcome a more structured approach to first aid within the nursing course. It is a highly transferable skill and something which can only benefit students and the public at large.
    Thanks to your comment, it's been a pleasure to read.

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  • I don't know if all universities do it but I've just started my Nursing Degree course with Kingston University and we'll be doing First Aid next week, just 5 weeks into our course. It's part of the programme we have to pass in order to 'progress onto the next level'.

    As it happens I've been a First Aider at work for a good number of years and I believe there's no accounting for experience so I too would recommend volunteering in this role.

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  • Adam Roxby

    Hello Karen

    Well we did have a lecture on the subject but there is only some much detail you can go into during an hour lecture.

    At the end of it we were encourage to seek out more information and to also get a good first aid book. Wise words indeed.

    Thanks to all the comments and involvement. I'll see you for the next article.

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