Crew trains lifeguards and surf instructors at The Wave - Great Western Air Ambulance Charity
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Crew trains lifeguards and surf instructors at The Wave

On 16 March, Specialist Paramedic in Critical Care (SPCC) Pete Reeve spent a morning at Bristol’s slice of inland ocean – The Wave. Yes, it was his day off but no he wasn’t surfing, he was refreshing the skills of a group of  lifeguards and surf instructors on resuscitation procedures and emergency first aid for surfing-related injuries. He was also giving them insight and experience into some of the techniques that could be used by GWAAC once our crew arrive on scene to help.

Already well-trained in first aid and Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR), The Wave’s lifeguards were keen to enhance their knowledge by learning from Great Western Air Ambulance Charity’s (GWAAC) Critical Care Team. In particular, they wanted to know how the Critical Care Team responds to the types of injuries they deal with at The Wave.

The morning was split into three sessions:

  • Puncture wounds and tying a tourniquet
  • Spinal injuries
  • Cardiac emergencies

SPCC Pete applied his teachings to real-life scenarios experienced by the Critical Care Team and everyone had a chance to get hands-on and practice their skills.

After the training, Lifeguard Freddie said, “I feel much more confident in dealing with an incident now, especially the types of injuries we’ve looked at today.”


Bleeding Wounds and placing a tourniquet

The group discussed the different types of bleeding wounds and the various ways to deal with them. A fun practical followed which involved a lifeguard stationed at each arm and leg of a volunteer and a race to see who could place a tourniquet the quickest.

Spinal injuries

They considered spinal injuries and how to treat them and discussed the pros and cons of using cervial collars on someone with a spinal injury.

Cardiac emergencies

SPCC Pete explained the mechanics of what happens to a heart when someone is in cardiac arrest and what a defibrillator does.

The group discussed:

  • The importance of getting a patient on to shore and to a place where there is room to work on them
  • Methods of crowd management and hazard response were considered
  • The difficulty that a wetsuit presents when you need to get to the skin quickly and the best type of cutters for neoprene
  • The importance of being aware of the temperature of the patient. They looked at ways to keep the body warm and dry
  • Best practices for chest compressions and reasons for and against doing mouth-to-mouth
  • Tips on managing drowned/partially drowned patients and protecting against electrocution when using a defibrillator

The lifeguards watched SPCC Pete demo how GWAAC’s Critical Care Team manages an airway.


Understanding where GWAAC fits into the patient’s journey

At the end of the sessions, SPCC Pete spoke about the chain of events that can lead to GWAAC’s Critical Care Team getting called out. He covered the types of incidents they get called to and the criteria for Helicopter Emergency Medical Services (HEMS) being despatched. He also gave the lifeguards some tips on how they can prepare a patient for the arrival of paramedics and GWAAC’s Critical Care Team.

The morning ended with a tour of one of GWAAC’s critical care cars and the kit on board.


Why train the lifeguards?

“It’s important to refresh their training and offer hints and tips because it’s all about the patient journey; care starts at the point of injury so the sooner we can get our patients the best care possible, the better their overall journey is going to be. Teaching the lifeguards what they can expect from the ambulance service, how they can prepare and look after a patient until we arrive is hugely important and overall helps that patient care.”

SPCC, Pete Reeve


What the trainees thought

“The training was really engaging and we learned a lot of new techniques which will strengthen our existing knowledge. Having that first-hand experience from someone who does emergency first aid every day gives us a bit more insight and solidifies procedures that we’ve learned already. It’s all adding to our knowledge and experience of how we can assist people. The CPR training was particularly useful because there are various different ways you can administer CPR based on age and scenarios such as weather environment and the patient themselves. It’s been really interesting to hear first-hand from Pete how he engages with that and to learn from his experiences.”

Ben, Lifeguard, The Wave


“It’s great to keep our training going and keep refreshing our skills. If we leave it for a while and don’t use what we’ve learned, then it can be easy to panic in a real-life situation. Having it fresh in our minds gives us more confidence because we know we can recall it quickly which makes such a difference in a highly tense situation; it takes the pressure off. Pete took our training to another level by really going into detail about deep cuts, spinals and how to deal with them.”

Ryan, Surf Coach, The Wave


“It was useful to talk through how our teams work together and how we can transfer patients to each other. It’s been really valuable having someone there so we can ask any questions. When we train ourselves here at The Wave, we’re limited in our knowledge. We can revise what we know again and again and again but when we’ve got someone like Peter from GWAAC, we can ask him any question and he knows every answer.”

Freddie, Lifeguard, The Wave

Our highly trained crew brings the skills and equipment of a hospital emergency department to the scene of a patient, giving that patient the best chance on their worst day.

By passing on their skills and knowledge to others, the crew increases the chance of giving their patients the best care possible early on which strengthens the overall journey for the patient.

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