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What is first aid and why is it important?

If you’ve ever witnessed a medical emergency or an injured person in distress, it’s not hard to understand why first aid is so important. Learning how to stay calm and administer the proper first aid can be challenging in those circumstances, which is why it’s a sought-after skill and qualification.

Below, we find out more about first aid, why it’s such a vital life skill and what role a first aider plays in the workplace. We also take a look at what’s involved in first aid training, what you can expect if you choose to take part in a first aid course and the seven first aid steps everyone should know.

What is first aid?

First aid is the immediate care that an ill or injured person receives. Often given in the case of an emergency, the primary goal of first aid is to minimize injury, future disability and in some more extreme instances, to keep the injured person alive until professional medics arrive.

First aid training often covers life-saving medical procedures such as CPR (Cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and the Heimlich manoeuvre and can also teach the observers how to use life-reviving devices like an AED (Automated external defibrillator). First aid can also cover the treatment of comparatively more minor injuries such as cleaning wounds, treating burns and setting a splint.

Why is first aid important?

More than a means to an end or a necessary qualification you need to acquire before you can complete another course (such as a security or door supervisor course), first aid can and does save lives. Regardless of whether you’re in the workplace, commuting or seeing friends, basic first aid is crucial in many life-threatening situations.

Role of a first aider

The role of first aider, regardless of whether they operate in sport or the workplace, is to provide immediate, temporary care to an ill or injured person. But what does this mean more specifically?

From providing basic life support to implementing the best procedures to prevent injuries becoming worse, the role of a first aider covers a wide array of illnesses and injuries. 

There are five main components of first aid training – each concentrating on an individual life-threatening illness or injury. Below, we take a look at each condition and what’s involved in the treatment of each condition.


First, there’s CPR. As mentioned previously, CPR stands for the life-saving medical procedure of cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Administered to someone who is in cardiac arrest (an abrupt loss of heart function characterised by sudden collapse and a lack of pulse/breathing), CPR can save lives by encouraging at least a partial blood flow until trained medical professionals arrive.

According to the American Heart Association, immediate CPR can double or even triple chances of surviving a cardiac arrest, highlighting just how important this procedure and a qualified first aider can be in an emergency cardiac arrest scenario. The same association also details how training with AEDs and the deployment of this device can also significantly boost the chances of survival for a cardiac arrest victim.

Head and spinal injuries

The brain is one of our most important organs. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the softest which means a substantial blow to the head could prove fatal even if there’s no outward sign of trauma to this area. Not to mention, serious injury to the spine can also go undetected as it’s often not immediately obvious.

Because the spinal cord transmits messages from the brain to the rest of your body, it’s arguably just as important as your brain. Together, they form the central nervous system and any damage to this system can be either incredibly serious or fatal. First aid training should therefore cover the treatment of both potential head and spinal cord injuries.

EpiPen and Anapen administration

Anyone can administer an EpiPen (the brand name of an auto-injectable device filled with epinephrine) to someone suffering from a serious allergic reaction or anaphylaxis, but knowing how and where can be difficult. According to the National Library of Medicine, up to 2% of patients that experience a severe anaphylactic reaction die.

Often caused by foods, insect stings or drugs, the epinephrine aims to normalise breathing, encourage the heart rate to increase and to reduce the swelling of areas like the face, lips and throat.

While EpiPens aim to combat the effects of serious allergic reactions, Anapens contain adrenaline are designed to tackle the symptoms of more acute reactions.

Both are important and need to be given to the patient using slightly different techniques, making administration of these auto-injectable devices a common and vital part of many first aid training courses.

Bleeding management

As stipulated by Healthline, almost two million deaths worldwide are the result of uncontrolled bleeding. Also referred to as haemorrhaging or excessive blood loss, knowing how to control and manage serious bleeds is crucial for a first aider. A combination of using a thick, sterile bandage, clean cloth, elevation and constant pressure should help to stem bleeding until a professional arrives at the scene.

Choking management

Choking can happen to almost anyone and it can be a scary and intense situation to deal with. First aiders therefore need to learn how to remain calm in this stressful scenario as well as the proper procedure to combat choking. Severe choking, for example, requires a combination of back blows and abdominal thrusts to attempt to clear the blockage.

A first aid course should therefore teach the class exactly how and where to administer these blows to a victim of choking. Managing the choking of a child or baby will also differ to the treatment of an adult, so depending on where you work, you may be trained in child and baby choking treatment, too. 

7 steps of first aid

Typically, there are seven steps that a person giving first aid should consider. To help first aiders remember these initial steps to treating an ill or injured person, the acronym DRSABCD is often used. It stands for danger, response, send, airway, breathing, CPR and defibrillation. While we’ve explored what some of these terms mean above, we’ll also look at which steps should be taken first and what each step entails in more detail.


Before any treatment can be provided, the first aider needs to begin by checking the surrounding area for potential danger. This danger may be the cause of illness or injury to the person requiring first aid, making this step vital for ensuring that the first aider does not also become unwell or hurt. You should also check that bystanders are not at risk of danger either before attempting to administer treatment.

Dangerous circumstances can include dangerous animals like dogs or snakes, fire or even live electricity. In the event that danger is present, the first aider should attempt to remove the person from that situation if it is safe for them to do so. Putting yourself in danger is never recommended.  


Once you’ve assessed the situation and are confident that there is no danger to yourself or others, you’ll need to find out whether the injured or ill person is responsive. Gently shaking their shoulders or trying to communicate with the victim by asking them to open their eyes or squeeze your hand should be enough to determine whether they’re responsive. If they’re unable to respond, action needs to be taken as quickly as possible.


Before the first aider can begin to treat the patient, it’s important to send for help by dialling 999 in the UK. Regardless of whether the ill/injured person is communicative or unresponsive, professional medics should always be called to the scene. In an extreme scenario where CPR needs to be administered immediately or uncontrolled blood flow requires speedy management, the phone should be put on loudspeaker to ensure the paramedics on their way are kept up to date with any developments.

Alternatively, if you’re without a phone or any means of communicating with an emergency medical service from afar, you can also seek out nearby help by first putting the injured/ill person into the recovery position. Try to locate someone with a phone or laptop or attempt to find a building with an emergency first aid kit.


Clearing the airways is one of the most important steps. The first aider should be checking for any blockages (food, water, vomit) that could be preventing the victim from breathing normally or even at all. The patient can either be rolled on to their side in attempt to drain away fluid or solid blockages can be budged using a finger if the first aider is confident that they won’t make the blockage worse.


By unblocking the airway, you can begin to check for breathing. Hopefully, the injured/ill person’s breathing is returning to normal if you’ve managed to dislodge the blockage. If you see their chest rising and falling or hear their breathing, they should be put into the recovery position. If their airway isn’t blocked, you can’t remove the blockage or they’re just not breathing, then you need to consider performing CPR.


A rhythmic combination of chest compressions and breathing into the unresponsive person’s mouth, CPR should be carried out until professional help arrives at the scene. Currently, the suggested CPR procedure is 30 chest compressions and two big breaths into the person’s mouth. If a defibrillator is nearby, then you should consider moving onto the next step of the acronym.


If there’s an AED nearby, it should be used as soon as possible once CPR has begun to deliver a reviving dose of electric current to the patient’s heart. Many AEDs come with a simple set of instructions that are even spoken out loud to ensure those with minimal or even no experience can still easily operate the defibrillator. These sophisticated machines are able to scan the patient and decide whether a shock should be administered or not for you.

What are the main aims of first aid training?

You may have heard of the ‘three Ps acronym’ which can be a helpful way of remembering the role of a first aider; to ‘preserve life’, ‘prevent further injury’ and ‘promote recovery’. By remembering theses three Ps, a first aider can act fast to ensure the ill or injured individual has the best chance of recovery and/or survival.

For example, if someone is unresponsive, unconscious or not breathing normally/at all, a first aider might be required to perform CPR in attempt to prompt them to breathe independently again. After calling an ambulance or instructing someone else to call an ambulance, the first aider can begin CPR (a specific combination of chest compressions and rescue breaths).

What to expect at first aid training

While the aforementioned set of first aid steps certainly come in handy during an emergency, they are by no means a substitute for proper first aid training. Offering the chance to become familiar with both life-saving equipment and procedures, first aid training will provide hands-on experience and more detail on these steps, ensuring the first aider is confident and calm when responding to an ill or injured person.

A first aid training course will typically last anywhere between one to three days. At Dynamis Education, for example, we offer an Emergency First Aid at Work course which is only a one day course. Our standard First Aid at Work training, however, lasts three days. As a result, you should expect to spend at least one day learning these vital first aider skills depending on the type of first aid course and the provider.

During a first aid course, you should have plenty of practice role-playing real-life emergency scenarios. You should also have the opportunity to practice vital life-saving procedures including CPR and the Heimlich manoeuvre on suitable training manikins (also known as dummy or dolls).

You should also expect to learn how to examine an injury, use important life-saving equipment such as defibrillators and find out how to control bleeding. Most importantly, first aid training is designed to stop a potentially life-threatening situation from becoming worse. The best course of action is always to provide care until professional medics can arrive.​

First aid courses at Dynamis Education

Eager to become a qualified first aider? If you want to become a first aider in the workplace, we can help with our impressive selection of quick and affordable e-learning sessions. At Dynamis Education, we offer a range of first aid courses including our First Aid at Work and Emergency First Aid at Work training courses to help you reach your goals.

For more details regarding our range of first aid courses, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. To speak to a friendly member of our team, you can either call us for free on 0800 024 2443 or send us an email at

Alternatively, you can also contact us using our handy contact page – simply send us a message and we’ll be in touch shortly! You can be confident that our highly knowledgeable and experienced team can help you to find the right first aid course.

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