Unfortunately, the only way to do this with any degree of confidence is through practice and hands-on experience.  While you don’t need to have an encyclopedic knowledge of advanced-field medicine, having good basic first aid skills may mean the difference between life and death in an emergency.

The best way to develop these skills is by conducting some drills where you tend to simulated medical problems.  However, it’s important to plan drills to include situations that you are most-likely to encounter in order to keep the bulk of your training as relevant as possible.  It’s also important that you cover some more-general, yet fundamental life-saving techniques as well.


The most vital things to assess, before anything else, is that the patient has a clear airway, is breathing, and blood is circulating properly.  Circulation involves ensuring that the patient has a heartbeat and that bleeding is controlled.  We can die of oxygen starvation within minutes, and no other injuries or treatments matter until these three things are addressed.  Make sure that you know CPR, rescue breathing, what to do when someone is choking or drowning and how to control bleeding.


The majority of injuries that you’ll encounter in the field will involve broken bones, sprains, head trauma or impalements.  It is critical that you learn how to properly-set and immobilize injuries and surrounding areas in order to prevent further injury to the patient.  Immobilization involves everything from wrapping a sprain, making an improvised splint or sling, or creating a makeshift crutch or stretcher.  However, using the right techniques and material often looks easier than it really is.  Read your manual, watch some videos, and then go out and practice.  The last thing that you want is to have to go through a lot of trial-and-error in the field during a real emergency.


Your next major concern is how you will get the patient from point A to B, and as you can imagine, the best option will depend on the situation at hand.  The best way to get a feel for what is required is to put yourself in realistic scenarios that will force you to improvise.  Safety and efficiency are the two most important things to keep in mind.  You want the patient, and those who are carrying the patient, to be as safe as possible while expending as little energy as possible.

Infection Control

Infections following even minor injuries are common in the field because we are exposed to a lot of microorganisms that we don’t have immunity against.  While the majority of infections are easily treatable under normal circumstances, it may be difficult to get appropriate care in the midst of a crisis.  Consequently, it’s very important that you focus on prevention by knowing how to properly clean and bandage wounds.  It’s also important that you learn how to take steps to protect yourself from exposure as well.

Make sure that you are regularly putting your first aid skills to the test by having drills that take place in plausible settings.  Not only will you be able to deliver faster and more-effective aid, but you’ll also be able to fine-tune your first aid kit along the way, and all of this will make a difference in how you deal with a real-world emergency.