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6 Things You Absolutely Must Know Before Doing ANY First Aid Training

"If you sign up for a first aid course, you need to know what you're getting yourself into. You'll need to set realistic expectations so that you won't be disappointed. The following are six crucial things you must know before taking a first aid course"

-Capt. Jack Ryan, Polaris

1. You won't remember/retain

what you're taught

in the course

The single greatest problem with most first aid courses is they try to cram too much information into a brief course period. First aid is a huge subject, and it requires dozens of hours of study and training to become proficient in its application and use.

A real life example

First aid courses often jump from one topic to the next very quickly, often without explaining any topic fully. For example, one course may be teaching CPR one minute, then jump to how to respond to cuts or serious wounds the next, never fully teaching you about what might cause a person to need CPR in the first place. You're still thinking about CPR while the instructor has moved on to cuts and serious wounds!

What could go wrong?

You may leave a first aid course feeling fuzzy or dazed, a normal psychological phenomenon that results from trying to remember too much information delivered in too short of time. If you don't remember 50% or more of what you learned in the course, did you really get your money's worth?

How to prepare yourself

Before, during, and after a first aid course, plan on investing extra time on your own in studying first aid books, doing more courses, and taking online lessons. This will help prevent overwhelm (as you'll be assimilating first aid information gradually, over time) and will assist you in retaining the information you're learning.

2. You won't be able

to do the skills

outlined in the first

aid course


Another problem with most first aid courses is that they do not offer enough time to teach the practical application of first aid skills. Practice makes perfect, and most first aid courses do not insist that their students practice first aid skills enough to become proficient in them.


A real life example

A first aid course instructor may demonstrate to you how to bandage a bleeding cut, but he may only have you try it once or twice, possibly not at all. You might get some instant gratification from pretending to administer a bandage, but will you remember this technique during an emergency? Probably not.

What could go wrong?

If you claim to understand first aid, but then an emergency occurs, and you do not remember your skills or you freeze up, bad injuries could become worse, accidents could become deaths, and you may be left with a lifetime of remorse for not better responding to the emergency.

How to prepare yourself

Practice, practice, practice! First aid is about 40% theory, 60% training, practice, drilling, and skill-honing. If your first aid course does not make you practice first aid skills, take another course that emphasizes the physical application of the skills. Practice your first aid training with friends and family, and study online courses that offer practical exercises too.

3. Most instructors

will rush you

Many instructors will rush you through your first aid course. They just want to give you your certificate and get you out the door, so they can teach the next class, deliver certificates, and get those students out the door. The cycle continues, and it leads to students never getting enough time to practice and understand everything.

A real life example

In our experience, first aid instructors almost ALWAYS try to cut classes in half, because they assume that "Everyone just wants to get it over with so they can get back to their lives."

What could go wrong?

First aid courses are already cut far too short. Most instructors say they can teach basic first aid skills in an afternoon, then let their class out after just 2-3 hours. Trying to learn the broad subject of first aid in 2-3 hours would be like trying to learn how to swap out a car's engine in 2-3 hours. You'll walk away mystified and only understanding a small sliver of the field that is first aid.

How to prepare yourself

Either demand that your first aid course be thorough and detailed, or take several courses. We suggest combining practice and first aid training with theory and online study. Read as much as you can about first aid, then practice your skills in the class or with friends.

4. You may feel ripped off

In many cases, you'll get ripped off and won't get what you paid for when you take a first aid course. Instructors are notorious for cutting corners, all the while hoping that you're "cool" with them doing so. The result? You end up not getting the full treatment and learning everything that is promised to you. Instead, you get an abbreviated version.

A real life example

A first aid course claims to offer a six hour, in-person course on a Saturday morning and afternoon. What is actually delivered is a two-hour segment from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., then an hour-long lunch break, then a segment from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m., then an hour for receiving your certificate and getting your picture taken with the instructor. You only ever got four hours of training, yet you paid for six.

What could go wrong?

Six hours of first aid training cannot be crammed into four hours. You'll end up missing out on valuable training, which could prove disastrous if you attempt to respond to an emergency without having received the proper training.

How to prepare yourself

Demand that you get your money's worth, read reviews from previous students who have taken the course, and thoroughly vet courses before you sign up. Check the credentials of the organization or instructor in charge of the course.

5. You may be given

false information

Some instructors have no experience. They might answer your questions with the wrong info. That is extremely dangerous, as you might learn a first aid datum or skill that is false or harmful. The field of medicine (of which first aid is a part) is always changing. Instructors need to stay up to date on modern first-aid practices. If they teach you outdated first aid skills, that could be harmful to you or to a victim in an emergency you attempt to respond to.

A real life example

Never put something in a seizure victim's mouth! However, old-school first aid training would have taught you to place an object between their teeth for them to bite down on so they don't swallow or bite off their tongue. However, sticking something in a seizure victim's mouth can cause them to choke. A first aid instructor who teaches people to respond to seizures in this way is teaching incorrect information.

What could go wrong?

As in the above example, if you're taught wrong information on administering first aid, you may make an emergency worse, not better.

How to prepare yourself

The best way to avoid picking up false information in first aid (other than by vetting your instructor before you take a class) is to receive your first aid information from multiple sources. Don't just rely on one person to teach you everything there is to know about first aid. Read books, take online courses, and study under several instructors. This will help you weed out the false information.

6. You won't be a



If you attempt to save a life or respond to an emergency without proper training, you might hurt someone or even break the law. With that being said, we always advocate for people to respond to situations rather than ignore or avoid an emergency. A response is usually better than no response. But wouldn't it be better if you responded to an emergency with all of the tools, training, and knowledge to bring about a positive outcome?

A real life example

You take a first aid class, and the instructor talks about how you're going to be a life-saving badass after the course. But what did you really learn in a 2-4 hour course, and how much of what you learned did you actually retain?

What could go wrong?

You might know some things about first aid after taking a course, but you probably won't know enough to save lives. This could end up being a life or death matter, should you find yourself responding to an emergency.

How to prepare yourself

The simple truth about first aid is that the more you study and the more you practice, the better equipped you are to save lives!

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