School for lifesavers
3 MIN READ
‘In the last year,’ says Gemma Farrelly, a teacher at Ardscoil Rath Iomgháin in Rathangan, Co. Kildare, ‘two of our pupils have had medical emergencies while at school and ambulances have had to be called.’ With over 350,000 pupils and nearly 28,000 teachers at Irish secondary schools, every day, during term time (Department of Education and Skills key statistics for 2016/17 academic year), some classroom emergencies are inevitable.
However, the sight of an ambulance turning up at school is obviously worrying for pupils and teachers at the school wondered what they could do to help. Ardscoil Rath Iomgháin school already had some teachers trained in CPR and there were other first responders in the local community but what if they could teach everyone at school, teachers and pupils, how to perform CPR? What if everyone at school could be trained to save lives?
CPR can double or triple chances of surviving a cardiac arrest
According to the Irish Heart Foundation, when a bystander gives CPR to a person suffering a cardiac arrest they can ‘double if not triple their chance of survival’. With this in mind, the Irish Heart Foundation, in association with Bank of Ireland, now offers CPR 4 Schools. CPR 4 Schools provides training for teachers and students at post-primary schools across Ireland. The goal is to bring lifesaving CPR training to teachers and pupils at 400 Irish secondary schools by 2019.
The TY students training every pupil at their school
At Ardscoil Rath Iomgháin, the Transition Year students decided to take on the challenge of training their whole school in CPR in a single academic year. After receiving their training, the 25 TY students split themselves into three groups each responsible for delivering CPR 4 Schools training to their fellow pupils. ‘They have been fantastic,’ says Gemma Farrelly. ‘This is quite intensive work for the students as each training session takes about 40-60 minutes to deliver but they’ve taken ownership of it from the start.’
Adding specific, local details
But the TY students didn’t only use the CPR 4 Schools materials and the manikins supplied by Irish Heart, they supplemented them with a Powerpoint presentation of their own adding local details of where to find the 4 AEDs in Rathangan: one at the Spencer Court housing estate, one by the GAA pitch, one by the Credit Union and the final one in the school staff room.
The students who became teachers
The TY trainers say they were understandably a little nervous about providing training to their fellow pupils at first but, when they got into it, it got easier. They soon learned to ask the pupils questions to draw them into the subject something that their own teachers do with them. The training enables people to recognise a cardiac emergency and to perform ‘hands-only’ CPR.
Teaching their teachers
By April, the TY students had trained 500 pupils and they hope to train all 730 by the end of the summer term. They then will train all the teachers at their school. The students also plan to sit down with the PE department to include CPR training in their classes in September, using the sports hall, so that CPR skills are practised each year.
Training the local community
The students have even discussed running a community night in Rathangan where they would take out the manikins so that ‘anybody from the community who wanted CPR training they could get it that night.’ According to teacher Gemma Farrelly, ‘we would bring in the first responders from the local community so that everyone could get to know them and share the location of the AEDs in the town.’ So the initiative that began in the school could spread to their Rathangan neighbours helping to save more lives.
Using Eircodes to give precise locations
In addition, two students, Lauren and Sarah, from the school attended a local community meeting and were struck by the idea of using Eircodes to give emergency services the exact location of an emergency. The Rathangan area is quite spread out. The locations of many lanes known to locals are not always obvious to emergency services crews coming from outside the town. There was an initiative in the community to encourage all local people to learn their Eircodes so that even in the most remote locations the emergency services could find them easily.
‘First responder’ details in every classroom
Since then, the school has put its own Eircode and the contact details of all trained first responders in every classroom. There’s one by the light switch in the classroom where the CPR 4 Schools training is being held.
Taking on responsibility
‘From the outset,’ says Gemma, ‘this group just loved taking on the responsibility and the skills they have developed doing it have been very beneficial to them. They have taken ownership of it solving any problems they encounter along the way. There are students who have gotten up and delivered this programme who might never have stood up and delivered anything before and they’ve done it really well.’
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