Academic journal article Australian Health Review

Emergency Response Readiness for Primary School Children

Academic journal article Australian Health Review

Emergency Response Readiness for Primary School Children

Article excerpt


There is widespread agreement among health professionals that teaching first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) to school children is an effective way of increasing the number of trained bystanders available in emergency situations.1-5 Indeed, the American Heart Association recommends that training in CPR be a mandatory subject in the secondary school curriculum.6 Among the many benefits for individual students are the acquisition of knowledge and skills that can save lives, awareness and mental preparation for emergency situations, increased confidence and self-esteem and a sense of contribution to the community.7

Older children may be the only bystanders available to assist with a variety of medical emergencies, such as sudden cardiac arrest,6 falls among the elderly,8 injuries to age cohorts and younger siblings in their care.9 Many emergencies occur in the family home, especially sudden cardiac arrests.4,10For Australian children aged 10-14 years, falls are the leading cause of hospitalisation. Pointer 9 notes that this age group is characterised by greater risk-taking behaviour and increasing access, often unsupervised, to a broader range of settings, such as schools, sporting environments, streets and neighbourhoods. Up to 20% of all Australian hospitalisations for this age group involve a head injury. Children having the knowledge and confidence to call for help and commence CPR if it is required can save lives.

Ageis animportant considerationinteaching basicemergency lifesaving skills (BELS). Bernardo et al.2 recommend that material is taught in a manner appropriate to the child's developmental level. In their BELS framework, Bernardo et al.2 suggest that, beginning at 6 years of age, children should be taught the skill 'Get Help', including recognising an emergency, staying safe and telling an adult. By 11-13 years of age, the skills introduced and acquired will expand to supporting the airway, breathing and circulation and administering chest compressions. Although much of the literature has focused on knowledge, attitudes and training for secondary school students,4-6,11-13 there is growing evidence that upper primary children aged 11-12 years are an appropriate and receptive target group for life-supporting first aid.3,14,15

In Australia, students aged 11-12 years are in Year 6, the last year of primary school. These young people are entering a developmental peak associated with puberty, which translates to heightened learning potential, along with enhanced social, emotional and intellectual development and awareness. They are also at their most vulnerable in terms of disengaging from their educational journey and hence a focus on learning that contributes to the development of identity, is authentic and applies to real life provides the kind of learning context that is most likely to appeal.16

European and Northern Ireland researchers confirm that children 11-12 years of age can learn first aid and CPR,3,17,18 demonstrating retention of knowledge and skills in test-retest assessments.19,20 This view is supported by the Australian Resuscitation Council,21 which notes '...primary school age children are able to perform age appropriate Basic Life Support skills effectively when attention is given to the context in which these skills are introduced and how the skills are taught.'

The context of the present study is one of water safety, recognising that childhood drowning remains a serious public health problem in Australia.22 It is well established that knowledge of swimming and water safetycanreduce a child's drowning risk and provide them with skills that may one day save a life. However, concerns have been raised that many Australian students completing primary education still lack the ability to recognise potential aquatic risks, cope with emergencies or assist someone else in danger. For example, Birch and Matthews23 report that teachers in Victoria estimate that 39% of Year 6 students lack adequate water safety knowledge. …

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