Help me pick an appropriate level of first aid training
July 19, 2015 1:22 PM   Subscribe

For general life preparedness and education, I'd like to take a course for First Aid, First Responder (FR), or Emergency Medical Responder (EMR), but I'm finding it hard to decide. I'm leaning towards FR or EMR because I think this field is interesting and want to learn more, and because I have time to invest in it. However, FR and EMR have additional requirements which sound potentially onerous for someone who doesn't actively practice in the field. I'm in Vancouver, BC.

My only past experience with this area is getting certified in Basic First Aid back in high school, which has long since expired. I don't go into the wilderness, and I have an office job.

I see that FR/EMR requires provincial licencing, and in the case of EMR, yearly continuing competence requirements. Is this as big of a deal as I think it is? Should I just take something like Occupational First Aid (OFA) Level 3?

My research so far is mainly on the websites of JIBC and St. John's Ambulance. I've ruled out the paramedic courses, as they appear to be geared towards those who intend to make it a career.

I'd appreciate any insights that'd help me make a decision here.
posted by spreadsheetzu to Education (7 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Have you considered a Wilderness First Aid/Wilderness First Responder Course? I see you say you don't go into the Wilderness persay, but many of the basic ideas of wilderness first aid become suddenly more relevant say, after a big quake, or just if you are remote from medical aid. The content of a WFA/WFR course is generally a bit more involved than general first aid, and usually they are full of people who are interested in being there, as opposed to someone who is mandated by a job to attend. Something else to consider, if you are interested in First Aid, is volunteering with St John Ambulance Brigade (sometimes called Community Service Division or First Aid Services). You may find many like minded, keen people and it can be a great opportunity to see if EMS is something you want to spend more time and effort getting involved in. As a caveat, in my experience SJA Brigades can vary tremendously in the personalities involved and the quality of training, so do go into with eyes open. Another option to look at is a course in the US, if using your certification professionally isn't your goal. You may find shorter courses, without prerequisites just over the border. Its a shame standard first aid isn't a high school graduation requirement, and more people aren't interested, because it's a great life skill!
posted by Northbysomewhatcrazy at 3:15 PM on July 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

Of the options you've laid out, it looks like the First Responder is the best choice for you. You'll learn "life-saving skills and knowledge to perform patient care to the public until the arrival of the ambulance", which will allow you to provide care in emergency non-wilderness situations.

I also think the Wilderness First Responder course is very much worth considering, even if you don't spend time in the wilderness. WFR assumes a wilderness context; instead of teaching you what to do in the first few minutes of emergency care, it teaches you what to do in the first few hours and how to think about your evacuation options. On the medical skill side, this means you learn about a much larger range of problems, from bee stings to broken bones. You don't go into as much detail as EMR, but you'll go much further than FR in ways that will be useful to your everyday life. You'll understand how to deal with low-level injuries and medical issues, when to call a doctor, and when something is a real emergency. While you will learn some skills that you will not practice outside of a wilderness context, you will also learn a lot of very useful medical information.

In terms of general-life preparedness, WFR is also very good at helping you think about priorities, decision-making, logistics, and leadership. A FR course will develop some of these skills, but again it's focused on "X minutes until the ambulance" rather than the longer time period and complicated range of factors involved in the wilderness context. The practical sessions in FR will provide some of this, but WFR will give you some of the best in-depth, realistic emergency training you can get without becoming a medical professional.
posted by earth by april at 5:23 PM on July 19, 2015

Perhaps you can look at the Vancouver City volunteer corps? After the basic training you can take courses for neighborhood emergency response which would cover first aid as well as preparedness/disaster management for earthquakes etc.
posted by boffin police at 5:35 PM on July 19, 2015

You should consider volunteering with St John Ambulance! We provide free first aid training to volunteers, and then provide first aid at community events almost every weekend. You'll get lots of experience with patients, mostly treating small injuries, but also occasionally major trauma. There are 3 very active Vancouver divisions.

Check your mefi mail.
posted by piper4 at 5:44 PM on July 19, 2015

Response by poster: I've heard good things about the wilderness-level courses, but it hasn't been my first choice due to inconvenience, because it seems to only be available in North Vancouver, and I don't drive. How does WFR compare against EMR?

As for volunteering with St. John Ambulance, it's definitely an option, but I don't know if I'm ready to dive into uniformed volunteer service. It seems intimidating.

boffin police: Unfortunately, I'm not in the City of Vancouver proper - just nearby.
posted by spreadsheetzu at 7:06 PM on July 19, 2015

Do consider how much time and money keeping the certification will cost. For example, while I think WFR is a great class to keep that certification you need to take a weekend course and spend x money every few years. If the certification lapses it will cost around $900 and 9 days to get the certification again. I think it is overkill unless you are working outdoors. (previously had EMT and WFR certifications).
posted by fieldtrip at 7:17 PM on July 19, 2015

Check with your workplace to see if they have designated "First Responders" and ask if you can be on the list for the next training. Then your job will pay for it!
posted by WeekendJen at 10:00 AM on July 21, 2015

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