Covid 19 has forced Australians to re-think how they do most things, and First Aid training has been no exception. Social distancing rules and infection controls have required many changes in how we learn First Aid skills – including class sizes, the way we use CPR manikins, and practising first aid skills in a group or with a partner. Covid safe first aid training in the last year has been very different from the courses you may have done in the past.
However, the rules are changing. For more than a year now (since May 3rd 2021), we’ve had various rules allowing first aid training to be modified to run in a more covid safe (if slightly less practical) format. But recently, the Australian Industry and Skills Committee (AISC) has announced to ALL Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) in Australia that these rules will no longer apply as of September 1st, 2022.
So what does this mean in practice?
CPR Training Manikins
A critical part of all first aid training is the chance to learn and practice CPR – the life-saving process of chest compressions and rescue breaths that maintains a person’s brain functions until help arrives. For such an important skill, it’s important to practice under conditions that are as realistic as possible, which normally means a training manikin (you can’t really practice on a live volunteer).
Recently, Covid Safe First Aid training has allowed people to demonstrate CPR rescue breaths by exhaling to the side of the manikin (rather than into the manikin’s mouth directly). This obviously isn’t quite as good as practising directly on the manikin, but it provides a reasonable compromise of good skills practice and Covid safety.
However, with recent improvements in the Covid situation, the Australian Resuscitation Council (ARC) has recommended that students now go back to the standard method of practising CPR with a manikin – giving students a training experience as close to a real-life CPR emergency as possible. As such, once September 1st rolls around, students can expect to be using manikins as they might have done in pre-Covid days – performing rescue breaths directly.
It also means learners can no longer ask to be exempt from providing rescue breaths as part of the training – it’s required for certification in CPR.
Of course, RTOs will still be doing everything possible to make training hygienic and Covid safe – including thoroughly sanitising training manikins between students and providing multiple manikins where possible. It just means that the Covid 19 situation is now under control enough that getting a realistic training experience can now be a high priority again.
Working With Partners And In Groups
The process of first aid training has generally involved learning with other people. Over the last 12-18 months, Covid Safe First Aid training has meant that normal practices such as practising bandaging with a partner or role-playing an emergency as a group have given way to students practising bandaging on themselves and maintaining social distance for group work. This has meant extra challenges for students (bandaging your own arm is a different process to bandaging someone else’s).
However, since May 2022, the First Aid Industry Reference Committee (IRC) has recommended that these adjustments to normal first aid training are no longer necessary and should be reviewed by RTOs and removed where possible. So come September 1st 2022, first aid trainees will be returning to group and partner work – practising skills and role-playing scenarios in a realistic manner.
Other Training Practices
The core recommendation of the First Aid Industry Reference Committee (IRC) is that the special considerations implemented for Covid 19 are no longer necessary for first aid training. Effectively, Covid-19 is now sufficiently under control that providing the best possible first aid training is once again the priority. Before September 1st 2022, RTOs will review all Covid-19 safety measures and remove those no longer needed.
If you haven’t done first aid training in the last 18 months, you’ll probably notice little difference – the courses are mostly returning to pre-covid conditions. If you have been part of first aid training during that time, you’ll probably find things a little easier – with the chance to practice skills like controlling bleeding, or administering an epinephrine auto-injector or an asthma reliever on another living person.
These changes will be introduced progressively by RTOs leading up to September 2022 – at which point they become a requirement of the Australian Industry and Skills Committee (AISC). From that point on, the changes will apply to every Australian RTO running first aid training.
Are There NO Covid Safety Measures In Effect?
It’s important to note that these changes aren’t about abandoning Covid Safe First Aid training completely. RTOs will still be taking all practical measures to protect the safety of their students, including sanitising all equipment between uses. Students exhibiting flu-like symptoms will be asked to reschedule to another date, and many venues still have mandatory vaccination requirements in place. These changes simply reflect the Covid-19 situation in Australia improving in recent months – so they’re a sign of good things.
RTOs will still be closely adhering to the following advice and guidelines:
- State, Territory and Federal Health authority’s advice (www.health.gov.au)
- Australian Resuscitation Council’s recommendations and guidelines (www.resus.org.au)
- Safe Work Australia advice (www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au)
- Standards for Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) 2015 (www.asqa.gov.au)
Keeping Everyone Safe
Of course, it’s important to note that these decisions and changes to Covid Safe First Aid training have all been weighed up carefully by medical industry experts and made with the firm goal of continuing to keep everyone safe.
If you have any questions about what impact these changes might have on you, or about Covid safety at one of First Aid Pro’s professional CPR & first aid training courses, feel free to get in touch with us for more information.
Alternatively, if you’d like more details about the Australian Industry and Skills Committee’s specific recommendations, you can get more information at the AISC website.