By Pavel Bacovsky
If four years ago somebody told me that by the spring of 2010 I would be a trained First Aid provider able to take care of injuries all across Europe, I would look at him or her with disbelief. Prior to enrolling at the Red Cross Nordic United World College (RCNUWC) in Norway, I was never involved with rescue teams, mainly because the Czech town I come from is actually quite small and does not provide many opportunities to get involved in free time activities. But during my two years at the international boarding school in Norway, I got the chance to explore the field of emergency medical help, and it was love at the first sight.
The RCNUWC was founded in 1995 as one of the schools of the United World Colleges (UWC) movement. The dream of Nordic college was made possible because of efforts of the UWC movement, Nordic countries (Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Iceland all contribute to the budget of the college), and the Norwegian Red Cross. The cooperation between the Red Cross and the RCNUWC staff and students is represented through extracurricular activities, and the recent (2009) establishment of the Red Cross Certificate for students who get especially involved in the Red Cross-related events serves as a shining example of the healthy partnership.
Of all activities, the First Aid Team is most probably the most popular among the students. Many students come to the College with the intention of becoming the member of the Team, and even more become interested after they learn about the Team’s existence and activities (this was my case). However, becoming a member is not easy and requires a lot of dedication and time commitment. First of all, all first year (juniors of high school by the USA standards) students have to complete the compulsory 12-hour training program provided by the second year members of the First Aid Team. During the course, the students have to prove both their passion and dedication for first aid, and demonstrate that they are able to master the life-saving skills and teamwork. Usually about 75% of the hundred first-year students apply to join the team, but usually only 30 to 35 spots are open. Needless to say, the competition is tough, but always friendly.
For those accepted, the true training begins. The members of the First Aid Team meet at least twice a week: for an afternoon training and scenario session (which from my experience usually takes the entire 2.5 hours allocated to it), and shorter squad meetings during which the squads plan scenarios and practice the first aid skills. The other obligations of the teams are 1) to provide around-the-clock first aid coverage for the campus of the RCNUWC, 2) to provide first aid coverage to the RCNUWC and local events such as marathons, 3) to provide the basic First Aid training for the students of the RCNUWC, as well as for the local Norwegian elementary and high school students. On top of that, thanks to the involvement of the RCNUWC First Aid coordinator David Robertson, the members of the RCNUWC First Aid team help with training of Serbian National First Aid Team for the annual European First Aid Championship (FACE). To exemplify the quality of the training: since the Serbian team has started training at the RCNUWC five years ago, they have won FACE every year, becoming the first ever First Aid team that has won the competition four times in a row. Sadly, Serbians will not extend their streak since this year, since FACE is set to take place in Serbia this year and the hosting country cannot send a team to compete.
My experience in the First Aid Team of the RCNUWC was invaluable. As I already alluded to, I never got the chance to be involved in the emergency medicine before RCNUWC. Through my 1.5 years on the team, I learned a lot about this field. I have also improved my group-work, planning, coaching and lecturing skills. But most importantly, I got the chance to interact with injured people and help them in securing their speedy recovery. During my tenure on the team, while having several emergency situations, we never had to deal with anything severe. But even through the limited amount of encounters, I have learned how crucial is a skilled, calm and reassuring first aid provider for the well-being casualty.
While I was not able to get involved in the EMT here on Dartmouth due to time constraints, I still keep up with the Team in Norway. If everything goes as planned, I will be able to meet some of my friends from the team this summer in Beograd, Serbia, at the FACE 2010.