Call me old fashioned, but when preparing for my interview with first aid expert, Billy Casserley, I was expecting a rather serious conversation. After a couple of missed calls, a momentary pause as I struggled to turn the phone on loudspeaker and a colleague shouting about tea, we finally stopped giggling and sat down to talk. Working as a full time first aid instructor with Train Aid, Billy instantly managed to convince me that perhaps first aid training does not have to be as stuffy and solemn as it may sound. They say you learn something new every day and in this job I often do, but this is one expert whose advice is well worth remembering.
So Billy, how did you come to work for Train Aid?
Well I had a first aid qualification and had done some basic first aid in the past and I felt I could deliver courses in a fun way, making them more interesting and interactive. After leaving my previous job I went and did intensive teacher training and started working here part time, working as a window cleaner as well. As the company got bigger I came on full time and have gone from there really.
Do you think there is still a stereotype that first aid courses are boring?
Yes definitely, I’ve been doing this for three years now and a lot of people start off quite sombre and thinking it’s going to be a long day, but once they get going they realise it’s actually quite good. Courses can often be very boring – death by PowerPoint, but we don’t do that here. We get very practical and obviously take it seriously but make it fun and enjoyable at the same time – I think that’s the way people learn best.
What’s the best part of your job?
I think I would have to say that teaching a subject that has the potential to make such a difference and help people is very fulfilling. I do get stories from ex students who say I did this in an emergency, or was able to help this person who was having a seizure. I also love meeting new people on a daily basis on the courses.
What would you say is the hardest part?
Probably dealing with people’s over expectations of a first aid course. A lot of what we teach is about simple skills you can put into place whilst waiting for an ambulance. You’re not expected to be a medical professional when you leave.
Are there different types of first aid courses?
Yes, we run different courses to suit different people. For example, there are paediatric first aid courses for childminders and nannies; the principles of first aid are similar between an adult and a child, but the CPR technique is completely different. The most popular course is the emergency first aid day course for office, hotel, gym and warehouse workers. We cover things like knowing what to do if someone dropped to the ground in your office right now, although hopefully that won’t happen.
I hope not, I wouldn’t know what to do! What are the most common mistakes people make when it comes to first aid?
A lot of people talk about saving lives on the course, but in most cases you will just need to prevent things from getting worse. People often over think things, panic instead of taking deep breaths and in an emergency, rushing in and not thinking about the correct course of action. When it comes to actually administrating techniques, I would say common mistakes include not putting bandages on tight enough, checking breathing or opening the airway enough.
I guess it must be difficult to prepare people for an emergency...
Yes, you can practise here but people struggle to get their head around just remembering what they are taught. It shouldn’t be a problem though, and people often worry about forgetting what they have learnt before anything has happened. I really believe students get too worried about making mistakes – things don’t always work out like they do in textbook when it comes to real life.
What are the most important things to remember?
It’s really difficult to say, but imagine if someone collapsed now, the three most important things are to check someone’s breathing, to know when to use the recovery position and to know how to administer CPR, or cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
What do you think is the most difficult element of first aid for beginners to get their heads around?
I suppose a lot of people struggle to get their head around the CPR elements; we use basic guidelines to try and make it simple but students often over think it. In the vast majority of cases, with adults, it doesn’t matter about counting, it’s just about getting into a simple rhythm and keeping going until the ambulance arrives.
Have you ever had to put what you teach into practice?
Yeah I’ve had to help a few times, I’ve had someone collapse in the street, helped a baby who was choking – all these little things along the way really. In a situation where a first aider was called I would stop and help, but this isn’t always easy. Sometimes if there are a lot of people at the scene, it’s just about watching and making sure people are doing the right thing rather than just jump in.
What are the most common reasons people come to take a first aid course?
Well, a bit like me when I came to do my very first course, people predominantly have been sent from their workplace, which is good because they end up with a qualification and having learnt new skills. Saying that, you do get people who come and do a course because they want to know first aid after something has happened to a family member of friend, or new parents wanting to do a paediatric course. It’s a real mix really.
Tell me something unexpected about first aid?
The most interesting thing I have come across in a long while is called the Human Drive Reflex. If a young child falls into a freezing river, it can sometimes have the same effect as a seal when they go under water. When the cold water hits their face, it triggers the brain to shut the body down and they go into a state almost like hibernation. Because they have a higher amount of oxygen in their bloodstream and they are better at recovering lost brain connections quickly, with careful CPR they can be saved, even though they have technically drowned. The colder the water, the greater the chance they will survive, so if they fell into an icy river they have a better chance of surviving than in a bath or swimming pool. I’ve written a blog on it – it really is fascinating.
I can’t get over that – brilliant answer! Thank you very much.
Whether, like me, you have realised how little you know, or need to find a first aid course for work, there are plenty of options available on our site. Who knows when your skills might come in handy...?