Lesson from Tucson: First Aid Training courses in high school

People continue to cast about to identify lessons learned and take-away “to do” agenda items in the wake of last Saturday’s shooting rampage in Tucson. The overarching theme has been the need to dial back the hatred that colors so much rhetoric across the political spectrum. Restore civility. Eliminate or reduce incendiary language.

There are calls to curtail gun ownership, allowing only the purchase of one gun a month; to do more meaningful mental health checks before consummating a sale; to bar gun clips that enable the rapid shooting of so many rounds. There are calls to loosen HIPAA laws so information about potentially dangerous individuals can be more easily shared among educational, community and public safety organizations. And, of course, there are those who argue we need to step up funding of mental health services in the community.

Some members of the U.S. Congress have called for increased security for themselves and for staff.

We should be weighing the pluses and minuses of all of those, but I would like to suggest another proposal, one that helped save the life of Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and that could saves lives of countless others. I point to her intern, 20-year-old Daniel Hernandez, Jr, who has become a significant hero in the eyes of people across our nation. Hernandez was able to play the role of hero because he had had emergency medical training in a nursing assistant program in “a few classes in high school.” That training put him into “critical thinking mode” as soon as he became aware of the danger.

He rushed toward Giffords, apparently checking two or three others’ pulses along the way.
When he reached Giffords, he knew to sit her up so that she would not choke on blood from her head wound. He knew to apply pressure to the wound to stem the bleeding, a move that Tucson doctors say probably saved her life. He also knew to keep talking to her to help keep her alert. At all times, his calm demeanor was reassuring and amazingly mature, an obvious result of the training he had had.

If I were an education administrator today or an official involved in setting policy, I would try to make emergency medical training (call it First Aid), including CPR, a requirement for graduation from high school. Kids would know what to do and not do as a stopgap measure until EMT’s arrive on the scene. Its applicability on the sports field is obvious, but its value goes well beyond that. Heart associations and ambulance service associations offers courses to school systems.  Some larger employers provide such training as part of their investment in their workforces.
No doubt Daniel Hernandez, Jr. has the right stuff, the mettle for heroic action. He showed that on Saturday. But all of our young people should be exposed to the training and tools to give them the confidence to act skillfully should the circumstance arise.

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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