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First aid training for young children

Norwegian first aid campaign. First aid training for young children. Research shows that this works best in social settings, so SINTEF is looking into how to optimise first aid training for school children. Photo:
Norwegian first aid campaign. First aid training for young children. Research shows that this works best in social settings, so SINTEF is looking into how to optimise first aid training for school children. Photo:
The aim of the national campaign “Sammen redder vi liv” (Saving lives together) is to encourage Norwegians to save more lives. Children are included, and researchers have been given the job of ensuring that it succeeds.

The aim is to enable Norwegians to be even better first aiders. Success may mean saving 200 lives every year. This is why in February last year, Health and Care Services Minister Bent Høie launched the national “Saving lives together” campaign.

About the project

As part of its subsidiary project, the Norwegian Heart and Lung Association (LHL) will be reaching out to 629,300 pupils in 2,858 schools all over Norway. These children make up a significant part of Norway’s population, and are a vital first aid training resource. The project will adapt its training approach to the pupils’ age, levels of maturity, and any special needs they may have. The training modules under development shall be adapted to their target group using short and repetitive training activities (so-called “low dose, high frequency” training), carried out for all grades throughout the school year. The project is currently being funded by the Gjensidige Foundation, backed by one of Norway's largest insurance companies.

In Norway, sudden heart failure affects more than 3,000 people every year. Because two out of three incidents occur when someone else is close by, first aid skills are very important.

The campaign embraces Norway’s entire population, from pre-school children to the elderly. The LHL is heading the project, covering all schools in Norway, and SINTEF’s role is to assess how first aid training is organised and received in selected pilot schools.

“There is currently no organised first aid training in schools, and many children learn nothing about first aid skills”, says Marit Røed Halvorsen, who is LHL Project Manager for the pilot project called “Nasjonal førstehjelpsopplæring i grunnskolen” (National First Aid Training in Schools).

Social learning works

SINTEF has recently put together a report that pools all previous research into first aid training in schools. It demonstrates that school-based training promotes first aid knowledge and skills. It is currently not possible to conclude on the basis of international research what kind of training programme works best for different age groups. However, the report recommends that training should start with the principle that learning is a social activity and that the material being taught should be seen as relevant and useful.

The best results are achieved using a mix of theory and practice, involving repetition combined with an element of training with an instructor or teacher. One of the teacher’s most important tasks is to instruct the pupils in problem-solving so that they can make their own choices about the right thing to do.

Ready and willing to look after themselves

The campaign has its origins in the public administration committee (NOU) report no. 2015:17 “Først og fremst – Et helhetlig system for håndtering av akutte sykdommer og skader utenfor sykehus” (First and foremost – an integrated system for dealing with acute illness and injury outside hospitals). The campaign addresses what can be done to encourage Norwegians to be willing and able to look after both themselves and each other when acute illnesses or injury arise.

According to the Norwegian Directorate of Health, six out of ten Norwegians say that they do not feel comfortable giving first aid in life-threatening situations. Among these, eight out of ten say they are afraid of making matters worse. This is why the Directorate wants to mobilise the general public as a medical resource in acute situations.

“We’ve recently launched a pilot project that will provide answers about the best way this can be implemented”, says Røed Halvorsen. “What we know for certain is that even first graders can learn basic first aid”, she says.

Ineffective training

“There have been several first aid training campaigns directed at schools and the general public, but they’ve all failed to have the desired effect”, explains Dag Ausen, who is a researcher at SINTEF working on the project.

This is why future first aid training initiatives and projects must be knowledge-based. This is where SINTEF can play a role in promoting practical implementation.

During 2018, researchers will monitor trials of a teaching programme implemented in seven pilot schools – three each in Oslo and Tromsø, and one in Jessheim. Experience and results from the pilot schools will form the design basis for a training programme that will be offered to all Norwegian schools in 2019.

The aim of the project is to enable school pupils to recognise people who show signs of illnesses or injuries requiring urgent attention, and be able to start simple first aid measures.

Action research in schools

Ausen explains that the accompanying research component is divided into two parts. Initial evaluation of the pilot project shall provide knowledge that can be used to improve and further advance the training programme by means of action research.

“Observation in the classrooms will provide us, among other things, with answers to our questions about whether the training set-up is working as intended, how teachers are preparing their instruction, and whether the children are paying attention and appear to be interested”, says Ausen. It is also important to see whether the teaching aims for pupils in the various grades are being achieved.

Subsequently, the accompanying research component will record the results from the training set-up being piloted in the schools during autumn 2018. The researchers shall contribute to development of the teaching materials, the training set-up and the evaluation of its impact. Both teachers and children will take part in this process, together with experts in first aid training.

Gender differences

A previous Norwegian research project has investigated the role that gender plays in first aid training. It shows that girls are better than boys at acquiring knowledge about first aid, but that boys are more self-confident about being able to help. For this reason, training programmes should focus on boosting girls’ self-confidence and consolidating boys’ knowledge base.

“We have to find out what type of first aid training enables the knowledge to stick so that it’s ready when someone has to act in an acute situation”, says Ausen. “That’s why assessment is so important”, he says.

This is where digital teaching resources can play a key role. Researchers also want to look into how technology can help first aiders handle their role effectively, as well as consolidate the teaching set-up.