Should first responders take part in CPD and keep a record of their learning and development - Harry Decker

23 Oct 2016 11:30 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
Should Community First Responders do CPD and keep a portfolio record of their training and development?
Harry Decker

From speaking to community first responders up and down the country, the continuing professional development that is required to be undertaken varies massively from one trust to the next, and in some cases, from one area of an ambulance trust to another.

When the first community first responder schemes appeared, well in excess of ten years ago, the initial concept surrounded training and equipping local people in (usually) rural communities to attend cardiac arrest and chest pain calls on behalf of the ambulance service to provide basic life support and reassurance until an ambulance arrived. Whilst I would agree that the primary function, and the driving force behind these groups has not changed, the role of a community first responder has evolved drastically alongside the ambulance service. With pressure being added to the ambulance service by the media, it is imperative A8 response times are met. Because of that, and because of the skill and willingness of the volunteers, community first responders are being dispatched to a far wider range of calls than initially intended.

For a number of years now, there has been more and more emphasis within the ambulance services, statutory, private and voluntary, to focus on continuing professional development – in short, continuing to learn and develop your knowledge for the benefit of the patient, even after qualifying. Again going back to the variety amongst norms within CFR groups, varying levels of emphasis is placed on CPD, from having to undertake an annual re-qualification, to group meetings every two weeks, and the need to keep a record of any training or development undertaken, either guided or unguided. No matter the level of development undertaken, its primary purpose is to benefit any patient the CFR comes into contact with. 

CPD can be undertaken in a huge variety of manners, ranging from a basic life support refresher, practising skills that may not be used very often, in order to prevent skill fade, to reading up on newly-encountered conditions, through to reviewing your Trust’s oxygen administration guidelines to ensure you are confident in dealing with any situation. The level and depth of professional development undertaken should vary dependent upon the level at which the NHS Trust allow you to practise, and should be within the scope of your training, thus ensuring Trust guidelines are adhered to. 

Whenever CPD is undertaken, it should always be documented. I am aware some Trusts have training log-books to keep a record of any training and development completed; however, it can also be helpful to keep a separate record. Not only does it allow you to visualise areas of your development you have not yet focused on, but it also aids in the understanding of the subject. By writing up the CPD undertaken, it allows you to review your learning, recapping on the essential points, and thus aiding information processing. 

As well as undertaking practical or theoretical learning, another aspect of CPD is reflection upon incidents, regardless of whether they went well, or not so well. Patient confidentiality is important within these reflections, and if in doubt, double check with your CFR team leader. 

I personally utilise Driscoll’s model of reflection, which at its’ most basic level asks – What? So What? Now What? This requires you to look in more depth about what happened, what yourself and others did, and what your reaction was. It then asks you to evaluate the consequences of what happened – so how you felt at the time, how you feel now, whether anything could have gone better. Finally, it encourages you to think if you could approach the situation differently in the future, and about how you could do that. The reflection doesn’t have to focus on the clinical side of the job, but can explore the way in which you handled communication, either with the patient, their relatives, any bystanders, or the ambulance crew. 

I personally feel that by completing this model of reflection, both for jobs that went well, and those which didn’t, you will become a more competent, more confident first responder, constantly developing your practice. Once again, by documenting this, it allows you firstly to review the incident, thinking about how it went, and how you could have acted differently to affect the outcome, and also to allow you to reference your development as a first responder, and apply what you have learnt to a wider range of situations.

Harry Decker

CPDme Development for Life - Community First Responders & Volunteers


  • 07 Nov 2016 4:51 PM | Anonymous member
    I think we are moving into a two tier world for Responders. There will always be those who cleave to the original idea of being the person in their village who has a defibrillator and rushes out to local cardiac arrests - nothing more. We need to be sure we do not lose these people - a BLS/AED trained person annually refreshed is significantly better than a simple CPAD site.
    We are already seeing signs of these CFR Basic's being turned off by the new training regime and the far wider expectations which the service is rolling out - personally I think this is a mistake and will lead to significant funding problems as CFR groups become distanced from the communities they serve (and the people who naturally volunteer and lead these communities as Parish Councillors, Rotary Chairs etc).

    In terms of those of us who want to do the more complex stuff and to progress our learning (in some cases ultimately join the Service and become Paramedics), then CPD is an inescapable part of life - but so is the realisation on the part of the service that if they want a more professional CFR responding to all 999 calls then they can't be fundraising for all their own (increasingly expensive and in need of regular calibration) kit at the same time. If we're going down this road we need to be less of an afterthought and more of a volunteer part of the service like the Special Constabulary and the Armed Services Reserves. This also implies significant CFR input into recruiting, retention, training and management of volunteers - at present there is an awful lot of doing things to volunteers and then wondering why there is significant non-compliance/ people departing.
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    • 17 Dec 2016 5:00 PM | Anonymous member
      I would like to give you a pat on the back and say you are probably correct. I personally feel that there is room for both those, like me who wish to be better trained and do more when on duty, and those who wish to do the Cat One call in the village. Police Specials like CFRs do not get paid but Police Community Support Officers do get paid. There are similarities. The Fire Service have retained Fire Fighters being paid for their services.
      Some CFRs do not wish to be Walter Mitty and some it seems do - go figure - I do not but responding for me is important and always for the patient. So I have a good paid day job and wish to give some back to the area. I want to respond to all calls and do. including RTC & Cardiac & Kids & ..... and I have qualified to run on (Controversial) Blues. There are in my group at least 5 responders all who just want to do the best for the patient and are willing to train and train and train but do not wish to change our day job...
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