School staff to receive medical training

Teachers, school nurses and bus drivers are being trained in first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation in a pilot scheme.

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ABU DHABI // Teachers, school nurses and bus drivers are being trained in first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation in a pilot scheme that will be rolled out in more schools in coming months. Pam Cawley, the associate dean of health sciences at the Higher College of Technology, said the training courses, sponsored by HCT, were "vital" for teachers and school staff. She added that people who work with children must know that their role is to "do no harm", and that they must contact a trained person immediately. "If an individual isn't breathing, for example, permanent damage can occur in four minutes" she said. "Therefore it's obvious that on-site trained personnel can make a huge difference to the outcome. It is important for schools to have a well-known process, and that when an injury or illness occurs everyone in the system knows what to do." The programme, which also involves the Health Authority-Abu Dhabi, will be voluntary, but officials said the policy could be revised based on preliminary results. It is likely, Ms Cawley said, that rules and regulations would be introduced in the future about the number of trained first aiders schools must employ. "School health nurses are a good place to start but - they will not be able to cover every eventuality. "Ideally, school ratios which indicate how many trained individuals at the various levels are on site for the school population will be uniformly established," she said. The HCT hosts the training courses on its premises, and participants are trained in all basic first aid, including burns, wound dressing, abdominal thrusts and the recovery position. Ms Cawley said the training was good for two years, after which a three-hour renewal course would be necessary. Dr Taiseer Atrak, chairman of the paediatric department and chief of neonatology at Mafraq Hospital in Abu Dhabi, has pioneered a number of child safety programmes at the hospital and said training school employees was a positive step. "Having someone on the scene with first aid or CPR training can make the difference between life and death," he said. "Even the five or ten minutes it takes emergency services to attend are crucial. "This should be mandatory for anyone working with children. Schools should have a number of trained people; it should be worked out by how many pupils they have." The pilot courses involved 12 school nurses, 11 teachers, four bus supervisors and three drivers. According to Dr Jennifer Moore, the head of family and school health at HAAD, the courses will give school staff the "education, skills and confidence" to respond to any "minor and major emergencies". Dr Moore said that while the training courses would be voluntary, HAAD would "strongly" recommend that schools participate. She said the number of participants would be "based on school needs". In February last year, in an effort to improve the safety of schoolchildren, the Ministry of Education instructed both private and state schools to hire supervisors to accompany pupils on school buses. Two children have died in the past two years after being forgotten on school buses. In April 2008, Aatish Shabin, an Indian boy, died on a bus on his way to kindergarten in Abu Dhabi. In May 2009, four-year-old Aiman Zeeshanuddin, also Indian, died in similar circumstances on a private bus en route to the New Indian Modern School in Musaffah.