This course was different, since it was in First Aid, thus both required by law, and relatively cheap -- about £300 quid for the four days, when many computer training courses will get through that in ONE day. Companies are supposed to maintain a certain ratio of qualified first aiders to employees, and we'd lost one. Yours truly was offered the chance to replace him, and being of a civic-minded bent, chose to accept [and the words "Yippee! Four days out of the office!" never crossed my mind. At all. Ever.] Mind you, the odds on having to deal with anything ickier than a bad paper-cut are, going by past history, pretty slim.
The course covered quite a lot of ground: artificial respiration, shock, broken bones, wounds, concussion and cardio-pulmonary resuscitation, though regrettably we didn't get to slam paddles on each others chest and shout "Clear!" in true E.R. style. Incidentally though, one person there had had this done to him after suffering an allergic reaction to a bee sting; it apparently burns off your chest hair. Maybe this should be marketed as an alternative to bikini-waxing?
The aim of this was to get you through an exam at the end of the week, both a theory paper, and a practical test in which you'd be put into a simulated accident situation -- albeit regrettably without founts of arterial blood spraying across the ceiling. Well, *I* regretted it, some members of the class looked distinctly shaky at the training footage involving a severed finger [wrap in plastic, then gauze, more plastic, keep on ice. Oh, and tag with the victim's name, a concept that seemed daft until you realised, what if there'd been a bomb explosion and there were a few limbs to be matched with their owners?]
The major concern was that we had to practice our techniques on the rest of the class. We British are not a tactile race, so having to do this to people to whom we hadn't been properly introduced was a severe mental trauma. Even if you were checking out the class babe for injuries (which basically involves running your hands over her body), you still felt you should be apologising for doing it. Eveyone managed to avoid an unseemly rush over in her direction when it came to choosing partners, though personally, I was more concerned about avoiding the EXTREMELY fey German chef -- even our instructor referred to him as an "old queen".
Ah, yes, the instructors, Tom and Barbara -- very 'Night of the Living Dead'. Tom was an avuncular uncle type, while Barbara was disturbingly upbeat about the whole thing. She had the sort of voice that had "SOOOOOO-per" as the subliminal message under every syllable, and I've never heard anyone say the words "major spinal cord damage" with such delight and enthusiasism. Still, they both undeniably knew their stuff, and shepherded the class through to the final exams.
I guess the situation did kinda mimic the real-thing, in that the adrenalin was flowing, and the nerves jangling. The last practical exam I'd had would have been my driving test back in about 1990, and the last time I'd sat a paper would have been my degree finals. My throat was dry and my hands shaking, as I walked into the room to find my casualty, who'd managed to stab himself with a chisel, fall backwards and snap his ankle. Unlucky bleeder. Though my technique left a lot to be desired [my dressings were too loose], I somehow managed to stumble through, and the roar of applause that greeted the announcement that we'd passed, showed that a lot of people were equally glad it was over. Mind you, 21 out of 24 had got through, so we're not talking brain surgery -- that's the ADVANCED course...
But actually, it was a good experience, and I think everyone should have to do it, not just one in ten people. 90% of it is just common sense, but knowing what to do certainly makes me more confident. Though every time I walk along the street, I find myself morbidly hoping for an accident, so that I can test out my new found skills. And next time there's a bruised thumb in the office, they'll be bandaged, ventilated, resuscitated and into the recovery position before they know it...