First Aid Training

The first aid course follows directly on from the general pre-deployment training and is also held at Girton College as a residential course.

Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust are contracted to provide the British Antarctic Survey with a medical unit (BASMU) to provide medical advice, support and training   More than 20 doctors, nurses and paramedics from BASMU came to Girton to help facilitate this amazing hands-on course for the 80 or so students.

Everyone going to Antarctica attends the first aid training at least every six years.   The course started at the unlikely time of 4.00pm on Wednesday afternoon .  After a few talks on basic physiology and an introduction to the ABCDE assessment process we divided up into 16 small groups for the practical work.

In our first small group session on Wednesday evening we learnt how to assess vital signs, pulse, temperature, respiratory rate and blood pressure.


30 chest compressions then 2 breaths
30 chest compressions then 2 breaths

Basic Life Support was the first session on Thursday morning. This session worked through a scenario of a patient in full cardiac arrest.  The main focus was on quickly starting and continuing chest compressions to a depth of 5-6cm in the centre of the chest at a rate of 100-120 compressions per minute.  If possible with two breaths also be added to the airways after each 30 compressions.



This session also covered use of the defibrillator and team organisation in a CPR situation.

And if I do say so I think Team 3 worked very well together.


Sizing up an oropharyngeal
Sizing up an oropharyngeal

The next session was on airway management. The A in our ABCDE model and is the very first issue to be assessed in a first aid situation. We had learned in our life support session that it’s surprisingly exhausting tilting the head of an unconscious patient to keep their airway unobstructed by their tongue. In this session we learned about inserting nasal and oral inserts to keep the airway clear. We also got to try a variety of face masks and pumps to assist the patient breath.

Entonox mouth piece

Pain relief was the next session.  We learned about the various types of pain relief available on station.

Entonox is a gas and is administer with a mouth piece that must be held by the patient.  Setting up the bottle was very similar to setting up a scruba diving bottle


Intramuscular Injection
Intramuscular Injection

Next session was giving intramuscular injections.  We learned to use the needles,  check for allergies, buddy check process for read backs of medication type and dosage.

We also discussed site selection.  For the novice the buttock is probably the best site and the upper outer quadrant of the hot-cross bun is the right location.  Fortunately we used oranges for our attempts.

Safe disposal of the sharps was also covered.


Spinal Board
Spinal Board


We then all gathered back in the hall as a full group for lectures on limb and spinal injuries before lunch.

We learned about splints and head stabilisation in cases where a spinal injury is suspected.

Spinal Board practical

In the afternoon we were back in our groups for more hands-on for C-spinal.  This one involved working as a team to log-roll a patient with a suspected spine injury onto a spinal board.

Friday morning was  a series of practical assessments in surprisingly realistic scenarios.  The part of the patients in these assessment activities were play by actors from the Casualties Union.   The actors wear very realistic make up and are trained to accurately and convincingly present the symptoms and signs of the conditions in the scenarios.

The course concluded with some final talks on physiotherapy and dental care.  And we were awarded certificates at the end.

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