March 26, 2014

American Red Cross Lifeguarding Class Experience

Hello again, and welcome to my second post on my ARC lifeguarding certification process :) !
So in this post, I'm going to be discussing the lifeguarding class experience. The company that I work for now also provided certification classes that taught the American Red Cross curriculum through three different types of classes: 2 webinar sessions, 1 class in a "classroom setting", and 2 poolside classes.

We learned most of the "textbook" information through the webinar classes. It was almost like a skype chat, but instead of seeing everyone's faces like a video chat, we only saw the teacher's computer monitor screen and the teacher couldn't see us. There was a live audio feed and a group chat and we basically participated by answering the teacher's questions on the chat. Each class was approximately 3-4 hours long and they included lots of powerpoint slides and videos. A LOT. of videos. Although the classes were super long, tedious, and a bit monotonous, they're jam packed with information. So while the teacher was reading through the info, I took notes on a Word Document on the side. Make sure you pay close attention to the details; when we went into class, we reviewed the information from the webinars and we had trouble at first remembering the statistics and ratios for CPR, primary assessments, ventilations...
Also, we had two different teachers for the two webinar sessions, which made it kind of difficult to learn all of the information thoroughly. We had technical difficulties during the first class and were unable to watch a lot of the videos. The second teacher for the second webinar didn't show us the videos we had missed, so we missed out on some information and were super confused during our in-class review. (don't worry, everything was sorted out and we eventually watched those videos!) But anyways, make sure you ask lots of questions because this information can be super overwhelming since it's so different from anything most people have every done.

What you need for webinar class: computer/laptop, food & water near you, notebook (if you don't use Word to type up notes)

Skills Class:
This next class took about 4-5 hours because we also took the CPR/AED/First Aid and Lifeguarding certification tests. We first started off with a review of the information from the webinar and watched some of the videos we missed out on from the webinar. We then took a break for the human knot icebreaker game since we were all so quiet and shy ;) but it was a lot of fun and everyone in the class got to know each other a little better! We practiced CPR/AED, primary assessments, ventilations, and unconscious/conscious choking skills on each other and on dummies to put the knowledge we learned from the webinars to use. Again, ask as many questions as possible! Right after 2 hours of review and practice, we had to take the tests (which I will explain in a future post). Since the webinar classes for me were pretty disorganized and a bit confusing, it would have been beneficial if I had read the entire lifeguarding manual before coming into class. It definitely would have made my life a whole lot easier. SO READ THE MANUAL!!!

What you need for skills class: notebook & pencil, any notes you have from webinar class, food & water (I was also given a CPR mask kit in class that day)

Poolside Classes:
We got to know everybody a lot better during the poolside classes. During the first pool class, we played the "circle of death", a treading game, to review the textbook info that we were tested on the other day. We then practiced entries, rescues, and scanning skills. Something that we learned that day that I found a bit more challenging was doing the feet first dives/rescuing submerged passive victims. Basically, you just have to be able to hold your breath for a long time, which is something that I can't do as well as others, especially because the deep end of the pool was 13.5 feet. But nonetheless, it gets easier as you practice more, and staying super relaxed makes the whole feet-first dive a lot more efficient and quicker. We finished off class by practicing head splints and hypothetical scenarios. The first poolside class took 4 hours.

 The next day, we pretty much spent 5 hours on backboarding alone. It's not an easy skill and it requires patience, teamwork, communication, and endurance. One of the reasons why it took us so long though is because we only had 2 teachers and 2 backboards, but there was 20 students (about 6 groups) that needed to practice. When we did the practices, each person took turns being the victim, lifeguard 1, and lifeguard 2, so it takes a while for everyone to get through the entire rotation. And let me tell you, it gets COLD. You're constantly going in and out of the pool to watch demonstrations and to practice and to wait for others to finish their practices first, and everybody was freezing. There was this one point when my teeth would not stop chattering and my whole entire body was literally shaking, but that was one of the things that everybody bonded over ;) My tip: bring some extra towels. The instructors were understanding and let us grab our towels when we had to stay out of the water for extended periods of time to watch demonstrations and my towel got wet pretty quickly. After about 1.5 hours of reviewing CPR/AED (yeah, there's a lot of review sessions) and 5 hours of backboarding, we started the skills test/practical test process (in tomorrow's post).
Classes are long and tiring, but it goes by much quicker if everybody pays attention and works together.
We took the final practical tests on the last day of pool class, so I was at pool class for 8 hours total, so please bring food or else you will not be a happy camper. (they gave us a 30 minute "dinner" break)
My tip: eat a full serving of hearty oatmeal with your favorite toppings (mine are: unsweetened coconut flakes, cinnamon, flax seeds, 1 banana, chopped walnuts, drizzle of almond milk). This kept me SO full and energized the entire time without making me feel super heavy and lethargic. If you want some extra protien, mix in an egg white into the milk before you add the oatmeal when you're cooking.

One of my main concerns before going into pool class was whether or not I should wear contacts since GOGGLES AREN"T ALLOWED (the reason for that is because in a real-life situation, you won't have time to put goggles on and then make a rescue). I talked to a friend and he told me that he didn't need to wear contacts, so I decided to go to class without contacts. I also talked to some of the other people in my class who wear glasses/contacts and none of them wore contacts either. Not only is there the risk of infecting your eyes but contacts will fall out anyways. I was worried that I wouldn't be able to see passive "victims" underwater, but it actually really doesn't make that big of a difference. Human eyes aren't designed to see under water and there's going to be waves, so you really won't have a significant advantage with contacts. So if you are worried about not being able to see clearly, DON'T! You'll be able to see everything that you need to see (trust me, I'm super near-sighted and I was fine).

Something that I didn't realize was that we would take turns being the lifeguard and the victim. Lifeguarding class is so interactive and social; you really have to be able to push past any insecurities or shyness and just make friends and talk to other people. It's also pretty physical because you have to rescue each other and work with each other, so just keep that in mind ;) Help each other out too; I loved how everybody had each other's back and were so empathetic. I literally can't believe how lucky our class was to be comprised of SOOO many incredible people. We helped each other get through the difficult skills we needed to practice and also through the COLD conditions.
So on that note, the great thing that I loved about lifeguarding class is the fact that everybody, and I mean EVERYBODY, was so incredibly nice and friendly. I made so many great friends and we all helped each other get through the classes, cause they aren't easy.

What to bring to poolside classes: 2+ towels, water & food, CPR mask kit, bathing suit

So that was my lifeguarding class experience ;) Yes, the classes are long, time-consuming, mentally & physically tiring, and in my case, COLD, but honestly, you learn such great skills that will come in handy in the future. Plus, you'll make INCREDIBLE friends and have some really good memories.
I hope this blog post helped because I was definitely super nervous and confused before going into the classes xD

xoxo, Hannah

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