Thoughts for No One in Particular

Basic first-aid skills

Every two to three years, I take a half-day course on basic first-aid skills offered at fire departments in my homeland. It teaches what lay people can and should do in medical emergency situations, including and especially performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and using automated external defibrillators (AEDs), as well as initial measures to take against traumatic injuries.


At the end of the course, a certificate of completion is handed out, officially permitting the participants to perform what they have learned in the course in medical emergency situations for a specified period (two or three years, depending on the level of skills learned).


Luckily, I have yet to encounter a situation in which these learned skills need to be used. But I have come to think it quite crucial to maintain my skills after learning the Golden Hour Principle – that persons suffering trauma have better chances of survival if they receive care faster.


I am told rapid intervention can lead also to quicker recovery and lesser after-effects, if properly performed by even lay people, so I feel it is imperative that I keep brushing up these skills every time my certificate nears expiration. I firmly believe that if there are less by-standers looking on but doing nothing, and more “standers-by” ready and willing to offer a helping hand, more persons suffering trauma can get back up again.


But interestingly, one of the key skills I have learned in the course is not at all medical, but very much psychological – a skill on how to turn by-standers into “standers-by.” Social psychology on the bystander effect suggests that it is most prominent when there is high ambiguity, low cohesiveness, and diffusion of responsibility.


Therefore, these aspects need to be addressed clearly when getting the by-standers involved… identify them personally, and give them specific tasks. These are some examples of what I am taught to say:


“You, sir, with glasses and a tablet in hand, please call an ambulance immediately.”

“You, ma’am, in red and white, please ask the receptionist at that building to bring me an AED.”


As I have watched increasingly more people suffering social and political trauma in the past week, I am beginning to think that maybe this skill can be effective in their recovery of their basic human rights and status as fully respected citizens of the world. Maybe it is difficult to fight absurd claims and unjust scapegoating on your own, but maybe chances of survival will be better if you can get other people and nations involved.


Unfortunately, most of us are by-standers who find comfort in anonymity, but are not completely unwilling to stand by you if called upon for support. Just be sure to identify personally, and give specific tasks.


“You, sirs, looking to build plants, please come to us for land and labour!”

“You, ma’am, with stable economy and freedom of movement, please work with us to protect immigrants and refugees!”


Maybe if we come together to intervene rapidly, the world will recover quicker and suffer less after-effects of the traumatic injuries inflicted on peace, equality, and humanitarianism. We must not leave it up to chance to not have to perform CPR and use AED on our world!


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