Medical Emergencies in the Classroom

While we have written posts about various kinds of classroom disruptions, until now ProfHacker hasn’t covered what to do in the event of a medical emergency in the classroom. How would you deal with a student who has an epileptic seizure in class? What if a student passes out, or she suffers a severe allergic reaction? I generally think of myself as prepared in the classroom, but when one of these situations happened to a student in one of my classes, I realized that being prepared academically and pedagogically is not the whole picture. When it came to being prepared for a medical emergency, I was anything but. But how do you prepare for the unexpected?

While absolute preparation is impossible (unless your Magic 8-Ball is a heck of a lot more accurate than mine), there are a few easy things we can all do to minimize disruption for all of our students and get help quickly if it is needed.

First, find out whom to call in the event of a medical emergency on your campus. It might be Campus Safety or it might be another number, but whatever it is, program it into your cell phone and bring your phone with you to class.

If you teach in a space with unreliable cell service, know the location of the nearest landline–it might be an office down the hall from your classroom, or it might be a floor (or more) away.

You might consider taking a basic first aid and/or CPR class. Many public universities offer discounted courses for students and employees. If yours doesn’t, the local Red Cross or YMCA are other possible options.

In the event of an emergency, dismiss the class and clear the room if possible. Be aware that the student in distress may well feel very self-conscious about what has happened. If they have a friend in the class, it might be helpful to have that person remain behind. If an ambulance, medical professional, or campus safety officer is coming to help the student, have one student meet them in the parking lot or entrance to the building and guide them to the classroom. It is also a good idea to pack the student’s belongings for them so that they don’t lose their materials — e.g. their wallet, their laptop, their books…

My student’s situation turned out to be a minor one, but it still served as a wake-up call for me.

Do you have other advice for how to deal with medical emergencies in the classroom? Please share in the comments.

[Creative Commons-licensed flickr photo by gwire]

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