Managing Medical Emergencies in Class

A situation that happens more often than you might expect is a medical emergency in class.  In the spirit of being prepared, here are some guidelines. (Most of these are for typical classrooms; labs usually have their own, elaborate safety protocols.)

  • If you haven’t done so already, then, now, before you close your browser, program your campus dispatch number into your cell phone, as Natalie said. In an actual emergency, while you’re trying to deal with the student, and with the rest of the class, you don’t want to have to fumble around with numbers.
  • Advice to “stay calm” is probably easier said than followed, but if you can keep your voice calm, it’ll go a long way, both for the sick/injured student and any classmates.
  • Speaking of classmates, consider dismissing class–while it’s good to have *some* people around, too many probably isn’t helpful.
  • I once had a student offer to stay with their classmate, in case I had to go teach.  In the event, I didn’t have to teach, and would have been free in any case, but . . . I’m pretty sure that job #1 in this instance is to stay with the sick student until qualified help arrives.
  • If the student is responsive, help them to be comfortable.  One rule of thumb might be, “If I were in this predicament, what would I want?” (Unfortunately, option #1, “for this not to happen in front of my professor,” probably isn’t available . . . )
  • If the student is *not* responsive, then you probably need to begin first aid.

Your campus almost certainly offers first aid / CPR / defibrillator training through the Human Resources office; it’s a good idea to take advantage of this.

Here are a couple of resources you might bookmark: “Medical Emergencies in the Classroom“; “Medical Emergencies in the Classroom” (.pdf with handy flowchart).  Your school’s health services office probably has campus-specific resources, too.  There are first-aid apps that might help–one may have saved a man’s life in Haiti.

(Slightly off-topic, but it’s a good story about college-age medical drama: When I was in college, my girlfriend at the time was in a car accident, one that actually broke several bones.  When she got to the hospital, the ER staff asked her if she was sexually active; she said yes, and so, as a matter of course, they ordered a pregnancy test.  It turns out that pregnancy tests, at that time, were routed to . . . my mother, who happened to work in the lab.  So, the way I found out that she’d been in an accident was when my mom called to ask why she was doing a pregnancy test on my girlfriend. Before I could even finish shrieking a denial, she told me what was really going on.)

Image by Flickr user “and the winner is . . .” / Creative Commons licensed

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