On a college campus, and for the rest of your life, it pays to have knowledge of basic lifesaving skills—and enough practice to actually apply them, should the time come to do so. Many students underestimate the value of these skills, or want to avoid taking any more classes than necessary, but you should give them your consideration while you’re still young.
The Practical Benefits
There are many practical benefits to learning these skills:
- Helping (and possibly saving) others. First, understand that by learning these skills, you have the potential to save a life. Performing CPR on a victim of cardiac arrest, for example, can double to triple a person’s chances of survival.
- Diversifying your skillset and knowledge. This is also an opportunity to broaden your knowledge and skillset. You’ll be introduced to new fields and new people, and may find a new interest that sparks a new major choice or career path.
- Improving your resume. You can always list your lifesaving skill mastery on a resume, which can greatly increase your chances of getting hired (especially within certain industries, like childcare or restaurants).
How to Learn
So what are the best ways to learn these skills?
- Learning on your own. You can try to learn these skills from watching YouTube videos, and they may be helpful, but this isn’t recommended. For starters, you won’t have access to the manikins and training equipment necessary to practice these techniques. You also won’t have an expert to tell you what you’re doing wrong—and some of these techniques, if performed improperly, can do more harm than good.
- Taking a formal class. It’s a better idea to take a formal class—and you can probably find one on campus. It may cost a bit of money (usually less than $100), but you’ll become formally certified this way, and you’ll guarantee you’ll be learning the proper technique.
- Enlisting a tutor. You can also pay a tutor to teach you one-on-one. Assuming your teacher is credentialed, you can earn your certification this way as well.
What to Learn
There are dozens of lifesaving techniques and first aid applications you can learn, but these are some of the most important:
- CPR. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is probably the best-known lifesaving technique on this list, intended to rescue someone whose heartbeat and/or breathing has stopped. If you’re trained in CPR, you can use a combination of chest compressions and rescue breaths to possibly revive the person who has fallen—or at least keep them alive and fighting long enough for paramedics to arrive.
- AED use. Automated external defibrillators (AEDs) are starting to become more popular, and can, if used correctly, save someone experiencing cardiac arrhythmias. Still, this is a potentially dangerous piece of equipment, so you’ll want to be formally trained and certified to use it.
- The Heimlich maneuver. The Heimlich maneuver has long been the standard for helping someone who is choking, but some organizations have revised their standard procedures to include hard slaps on the back before resorting to the maneuver. Still, it pays to know the proper form here.
- Stopping bleeding. Bad cuts can threaten bleeding out, so you may need to know how to stop and control bleeding. Simple compresses, ideally with sterile gauze, and elevation may be enough to get the job done.
- Heart attack response. If someone appears to be having a heart attack, giving them aspirin and keeping them safe can keep them alive until help arrives. Other actions may make things worse.
- Stroke response. You should know the warning signs of a stroke (and the acronym FAST). Only an immediate response has the potential to mitigate long-term brain damage here.
- Drowning response. If you see someone drowning, the proper order of responses is “reach, throw, row, go.” First reach for the person at a safe distance, then throw a life preserver, then row a boat to try and rescue the person, and only then resort to going in after them. More details will be available in a formal class setting.
- Burn response. Severe burns should always be treated by a medical professional, but immediate steps can help begin the healing process correctly. Cool tap water, moist compresses, and OTC pain medications can be a sufficient first response.
- Allergic reaction response. Someone experiencing a severe allergic response may not be able to breathe. Learning how to apply an EpiPen or similar device can open up their airway, so they can survive long enough to get to a hospital.
- Delivering a baby. You shouldn’t attempt to deliver a baby unless you know what you’re doing—or if medical help simply isn’t available. Understanding the proper response can maximize both the child’s and mother’s lives.
Learning any one of these skills will take a few hours to a few days, and you’ll carry that knowledge with you the rest of your life. You never know when it will come in handy for a job opportunity, or when you’ll need to apply it on the fly to someone who’s suffering.