Training Teachers to Stop the Bleed

Teachers’ Job Descriptions Continue to Grow But Now it is a Matter of Life and Death

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I walked into the school cafeteria on the first day of school for teachers ready for an in-service. After 33 years of teaching, I anticipated no surprises and at first, everything appeared normal. Tables held donuts of every variety: chocolate, maple, jelly filled, cinnamon-sugar. I hovered at this table. Several health-conscious colleagues gathered around the fruit tray, but we all consumed coffee as few of us had been awake to watch the sun rise all summer.

The agenda repeated a standard formula.

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Why would I need to know that?

After the break with coffee mugs filled to the brims, we returned to the hard-plastic seats. Nurse Bev and the school resource officer greeted us and introduced several visitors: a police officer, three firemen and two emergency medical technicians.

Their presentation began with a video on emergency preparedness. It quickly established a serious mood and embedded pictures of severe injuries in our minds. (There was no longer any need of coffee to stay awake.)

Next, the school staff divided into groups, received instructions to rotate through stations that provided hands-on practice of skills needed in case of a mass shooting or other major crises. We placed our coffee aside and went to work.

Each rotation addressed a different area of potential need:

  • General first aid including a review of CPR procedures
  • Use of medical devices such as Epi-pens and inhalers combined with an examination of the contents of a sample emergency bucket housed in each classroom
  • Safe approaches for handling blood borne pathogens
  • Techniques to wrap and secure a wound coupled with a demonstration on how to use the contents of a Stop the Bleed Triage Kit as well as the significance of each item: permanent marker, latex free gloves, tourniquet, bandages, shears, gauze dressing.
  • Strategies to stop bleeding, both minor and severe hemorrhaging. (This one struck me the hardest.) As I practiced how to effectively stuff a toilet paper roll with gauze, I told myself, “They must be joking. This was not my area of study at the university. The paper roll simulated an arm losing blood that required immediate attention. I wasn’t laughing — nobody laughed.

That was last year.

This morning while watching a morning TV news show, one of the hosts shared his mother’s shock when she returned to school this week for a similar in-service. However, her trainers introduced a bloody body appendage during the demonstration. The producers blurred the details of the picture shared due to its grotesqueness. These teachers’ experience proved more realistic, shocking, and traumatizing than what I experienced.

Now I divulge, I retired at the end of last year, but that doesn’t eliminate my concern. Numerous family members and friends teach. Our grandchildren attend school. And I can’t help but wonder, “What is next?”

The violence reported in the past occurred in other countries. The terrorists emanated from distant cultures. Other people and other people’s children confronted daily violence. We live in Meridian, Idaho!

While watching my grandchildren played “pretend” this summer, reality entered our home.

My husband and I own a cabin, a place of peace and escape. We consider it our sanctuary because the cabin secludes us from the pressures and concerns of the world.

When our grandchildren visit, we devote time to them. Screens seldom assault their brains and imaginary play excites them. Often, they beg for a scavenger hunt adventure. Pushing me to draft an interactive story. Once completed, with paper in hand, they disappear into the wilderness to explore the five acres of forest that surrounds our cabin.

After hours drifting in the freezing water, they wash up on an island. The island is deserted — isolated from all human life. Quickly realizing food and water are essential, they explore the area.

Soon, the young ladies adopt new identities and names, usually something unique like Zelda or Jewels. They also experiment with varying roles. The oldest assumes the duty of mother or teacher; her sister and friends become the brother, father, nurse or cook — whatever they need to perpetuate the story. Sometimes they shift between characters if it fits the purpose.

My job before the game begins is to gather and hide the “scavenger” items that help the children survive. Water bottles and snacks hide in the bushes to be discovered by following the clues within the story. By completing tasks new hints emerge. As the adventure unfolds, the girls became engrossed in surviving and finishing the game. They play the character parts with excitement and enthusiasm.

So, with these experiences, when I heard them yell, “Quick! Hide! Lockdown!” why did my stomach ache?

When they pretended to survive a plane crash, everyone understood it was imaginary play. Playing “lockdown” touched too close to the possible in today’s society. I remember when they played school, pretended to be princesses, or visited an imaginary land of dragons. Whatever happened to hide and seek? When did lockdowns become a game?

It distresses me to watch children’s play reflect such a frightening aspect of modern life. Now I am wondering how parents felt years ago when kids picked up sticks and used them as guns to simulate a war or threw pine cones and called them grenades.

Is it healthy to act out the crimes of humanity?

Are we a society desensitized to violence?

Is this just history repeating itself?

It seems the innocence of childhood is under assault. In schools and in our own backyard, threats of violence are daily concerns. I understand the need to be prepared. CPR training and emergency readiness makes sense.

However, is the fear of an active shooter our new reality?

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