Outdoor First Aid Blended Learning

Due to the increase in both COVID cases and demand for courses, we are offering blended learning for Outdoor First Aid courses. You can see the booking page here. I have been providing Outdoor First Aid or as we call it, Wilderness First Aid for 24 years and have seen significant change in this time in best practice.

My priority is your safety and well being. High Peak First Aid has its own training facility and we are the only ones who use the building. I am quite proud of our efforts on keeping the building clean. You can read more about it here.

Over the last few months I have received many calls and emails from people who need to requalify on their first aid courses. There have been extensions given by the HSE for Emergency First Aid at Work, First Aid at Work, Paediatric First Aid and for FREC (First Response Emergency Care): NOT REC (Rescue and Emergency Care). However, Outdoor First Aid does not get a mention. Some people have a genuine need to get qualified to go to work or lose income; not all sectors are furloughed or receive grants.

I have been providing blended learning for FREC 3 courses for a number of months now and it is working really well. I wanted to extend this to Outdoor First Aid so contacted a number of Governing Bodies and almost all were in agreement. I became quite vocal when one Governing Body presented their rationale (lack of) on blended learning, this led to yet another conversation with the IOL (Institute for Outdoor Learning). The outdoor sector has many stake holders and serves a diverse sector: therefore, it is almost impossible for everyone to agree on how to proceed with blended learning. The IOL issued a statement that in summary says, that as long as your provider meets the IOL requirements, First Aid Awarding Organisations Forum and HSE then blended learning is accpetable under the current COVID restrictions. However, none of these have stated what is the correct split for Outdoor First Aid.

I have spoken at length to the IOL about this. High Peak First Aid meets requirements now and we have opted for a 50/50 split. This would be:

  1. 4hrs on Zoom with a Tutor using short videos (a lot of them are our own made specifically for the outdoor sector), quizzes and discussions.
  2. There will be four hours of learning material on our website portal for you to access before the practical day and over the next three years, with the most up to date guidance on CPR and current best practice available.
  3. I can also prove to anyone that you have met all standards.

On completing the High Peak Wilderness First Aid 16hrs outdoor course, you will have received the theory in the comfort and safety of your own home, spent another 4hrs learning on the portal with our engaging, interactive videos that I have produced and one full day on-site when you can attend. If for any reason you cannot attend due to restrictions we will move you to another date with no financial penalty. It is a great opportunity to get started and demonstrate to an employer you have taken all resaonable measure to be qualified in accordance with HSE guidance. Also, if you need accommodation we have found some places who will take you as you are here for education and work.

So, if we have you attend for half the time, it should be half the price? Firstly, teaching via Zoom is not just a chat and looking at PowerPoint. I have completely revised our presentations to meet the learning outcomes I have sent to the IOL. I make our own interactive videos that gives you the option to pick the outcome for the patient. Our learning portal knows how long you spend on it and monitors your learning. For safety, we cannot have you interacting as much with other participants as we used to so we have a full-body, advanced life support mannequin who speaks when spoken to. In addition to overcome the social distancing, I also installed an immersive classroom on-site so we can put you into any environment where you have to interact with a constantly evolving and dynamic scenario to make up for the lact of interaction with other participants. That all costs a lot of time and expense, coupled with the fact we only take 6 per course to give you more attention and keep you as safe as possible.

We could do the whole course outside. I did that about 15 years ago. In the Summer on a nice day it’s a great experience, but we still lose learning potential. Some people like to take notes, read, see a video, discuss AND do practicals. Luckily our training facility has a wide screen TV and immersive classroom located within private wilderness terrain. Ouside in the winter under a tarpaulin incase it rains: we did that years ago, and not for long as nobody likes the Tutor yelling above the wind on the theory behind asthma or listening to how to use an auto-injector with rain seeping into your jacket or wondering when you can go home as you are so cold (face masks are pretty useless when wet as well). Participants on our outdoor courses attend with good quality clothing but after a couple of hours in the cold, even moving about, start to lose the will to learn. I know because I have asked people.

I am not going to provide a course where you just meet assessment criteria on the day. I want you to meet the assessment criteria and retain it. So much, I put myself through an MSc in Risk Crisis and Disaster managment with a thesis on improving and retaining knowledge in scenario based learning. We are not the cheapest but we are always busy and I have now personally trained over 36,000 people.

COVID is serious, but you know that. I won myself a bout of COVID before Christmas on frontline ambulance work as a student Paramedic – even with the appropriate PPE. I see photos of outdoor courses being provided on the internet and have mixed emotions on people’s interpretations of what is and what is not COVID safe. COVID will not just stop overnight, even with the vaccine and when the warmer weather comes and you need to go back to work, there will be a rush to attend courses as there was last Summer and there will be more spikes of COVID cases.

I believe blended learning is the best current option to keep you in work, keep you as safe as possible and provide the best learning experience. This is a constantly evolving situation so we will look to extend this as long as is needed.