x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

School staff given lessons in first aid

Voluntary programme aims to provide skills necessary to help pupils in the critical minutes of a crisis before emergency services arrive.

Girls wait to get on a bus at the National Charity School in Dubai. Bus drivers could be among school personnel to have first-aid training.
Girls wait to get on a bus at the National Charity School in Dubai. Bus drivers could be among school personnel to have first-aid training.

ABU DHABI // Teachers, school nurses and bus drivers are being trained in first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation in a pilot scheme that will be rolled out in more schools in coming months. Pam Cawley, the associate dean of health sciences at the Higher College of Technology (HCT), which is sponsoring the programme, said the training courses were "vital" for teachers and other school staff.

She added that people who work with children must know that their role is to "do no harm" and contact a trained person immediately. "If an individual isn't breathing, for example, permanent damage can occur in four minutes," she said. "Therefore, it is obvious that on-site trained personnel can make a huge difference to the outcome. It is important for schools to have a well-known process, and that when an injury or illness occurs everyone in the system knows what to do."

The programme, which also involves the Health Authority-Abu Dhabi (HAAD), will be voluntary, but officials said the policy could be revised based on preliminary results. It is likely, Ms Cawley said, that regulations would be introduced establishing the number of employees at a school who must be first-aid capable. "School health nurses are a good place to start but - they will not be able to cover every eventuality."

She said a standard ratio of trained individuals to pupils, uniformly enforced, would be the "ideal" situation. The HCT hosts the training courses on its premises. Participants are trained in all basic first aid, including burns, wound-dressing, abdominal thrusts and the recovery position. Ms Cawley said the first-aid qualification would be valid for two years, after which a three-hour renewal course would be necessary.

Dr Taiseer Atrak, the chairman of the paediatric department and chief of neonatology at Mafraq Hospital in Abu Dhabi, has pioneered a number of child-safety programmes at the hospital and said training school employees was a positive step. "Having someone on the scene with first-aid or CPR training can make the difference between life and death," he said. "Even the five or 10 minutes it takes emergency services to attend are crucial. This should be mandatory for anyone working with children. Schools should have a number of trained people; it should be worked out by how many pupils they have."

The pilot courses involved 12 school nurses, 11 teachers, four bus supervisors and three drivers. According to Dr Jennifer Moore, the head of family and school health at HAAD, the courses will give school staff the "education, skills and confidence" to respond to any "minor and major emergencies". Dr Moore said that while the training courses would be voluntary, HAAD would strongly recommend that schools participate. She said the number of participants would be "based on school needs".

In February last year, in an effort to improve the safety of schoolchildren, the Ministry of Education instructed both private and state schools to hire supervisors to accompany pupils on school buses. Two children have died in the past two years after being forgotten on school buses. In April 2008, Aatish Shabin, an Indian boy, died on a bus on his way to kindergarten in Abu Dhabi. In May 2009, four-year-old Aiman Zeeshanuddin, also Indian, died in similar circumstances on a private bus en route to the New Indian Modern School in Musaffah.

munderwood@thenational.ae