A day in the life of a St John Ambulance student volunteer

As part of Student Volunteering Week, we're publishing blogs from St John Ambulance student volunteers. Today we hear from Cecylia Watrobska.

Cecylia, St John Ambulance Student VolunteerWhat comes to mind when you hear the words ‘first aid’? Bandages? Blood? Someone lying helpless on the floor? It is unarguably the difference between a life lost, and a life saved. But there’s also a very different side to first aid.

'Sometimes first aid is a smile and blanket for the shivering teenager who forgot that New Year’s Eve is actually in December.'

It’s not all about saving a life – the CPR, the oxygen and scattering of different sized airways on the ground. Sometimes it’s as simple as a cup of tea, perhaps a quiet spot and kind words for someone overwhelmed by emotions as they march past the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday. A hug and a couple of plasters for the Marathon runner who thinks they cannot run any more, but is so near the end. A smile and blanket for the shivering teenager who forgot that New Year’s Eve is actually in December.

Student volunteers are an integral part of a national group of St John Ambulance First Aiders, who provide first aid cover at public events. Some of our highlights in London include the London Marathon, Remembrance Sunday and New Year’s Eve.

Our day (or night, in the case of New Year), begins early. We arrive at a designated spot at the event and begin setting up the Treatment Centre, where patients will be welcomed later on. This involves putting up tents (engineering students are good for this!), wiping down equipment and checking we are well stocked for the day ahead.

After a briefing everyone is split into smaller teams, each with a separate role, be it triage, treating, or ready for dispatch to collect an unwell casualty from the surrounding area.

'A buzz of excitement is in the air'

Throughout the day a buzz of excitement is in the air as people come and go with patched up blisters, dressed wounds and ice-packs easing sore muscles. Between the saline and gauze there is always time for a chat. Some people move you, whilst others make you laugh. Nothing compares with the courage of veterans, who march on Remembrance Sunday in memory of those who fought for their country. Their perseverance, even in the face of ailments of various sorts, makes us proud to be able to offer them assistance. 

Marathon runners show a very different type of courage. Those in full bear or rhino outfits (I don’t know how you do it – but you are amazing!) make you smile as they jog past and wave. Others touch you with stories of friends and charities for whom they are raising money.

The day comes to a close. Everything is once again wiped down and packed away, all set for the next event. We may be knackered, but students never miss an opportunity for a social! We relocate to a nearby restaurant for a hard-earned meal and catch-up with everyone.

We all volunteer because we want to be the difference between a life lost, and a life saved. But sometimes the difference to someone is about being willing to listen, comfort, and make that all important cup of tea. You can do it too.

Feeling inspired?

Your university first aid society offers you the chance to be part of a unique team of life savers, run by students for students.