This may not be what most of you are looking for to put on your CV. But adding that something a little bit different under that ‘Skills’ section won’t hurt. It may even get you noticed from other applicants if you have ‘qualified lifeguard’ typed on that freshly printed and warm paper. So this article really is about jumping in the deep end, and provides you with an explanation as to why having an NPLQ under your belt is just as valuable as any other qualification.
After applying for the position of being a lifeguard at my local leisure centre, the first thing they made sure I had done before starting work, was take the NPLQ (National Pool Lifeguarding Qualification). To work at any type of swimming pool, your employer will have to ensure you’re qualified to save the lives of your customers. If you haven’t previously taken the qualification, your employer will arrange a time and a place for you to dive down to a 4 metre diving pool, practice several different types of tows, and the all important and extensive first aid section.
And that isn’t the half of it. But don’t be put off by this. It’ll be worth it when one day you might find yourself in a situation that demands your skills as a lifesaver. Also, I can’t guarantee that it’ll be as quite as glamourous as Baywatch!
The NPLQ usually lasts around a week, with time split between pool time and classroom teaching (just when you think you’ve escaped it). You’d
be surprised at how precise you have to be, especially when knowing the difference of the depth of compressions and breaths needed for CPR on an adult, child and a baby. Knowing the correct procedure for broken bones, sprains or strains, right down to the severity of cuts and grazes children get when they run on poolside.
A vital part of the first aid section, is knowing how to deal with severe injuries. Learning it in the classroom, and practicing the procedures on your well enabled and healthy classmates is one thing, but to do it in reality is very different. Because you know your friends are only pretending, whereas you don’t know how bad an injury is if you have to deal with one whilst working. You’ll have to know the difference between how to deal with a cardiac arrest compared to a heart attack. Knowing how to deal with a suspected spinal injury, and realising that in real life it becomes a lot more daunting when you literally hold someone’s life in your hands, and you’ll have to tread water for who knows how long before its safe to get them out of the pool.
Whilst first aid is a key point in becoming a lifeguard, you’ll have to know the other hazards and dangers presenting themselves to you in the environment. Such as knowing the structural or property hazards, whether there are plenty of fire exits available, the chlorine balance in the water is correct, amongst other things. But if I list them all now, you’ll be here all day reading. But also knowing the danger people themselves pose to not only themselves and one another, but to you, the lifeguard, as well. The danger of overcrowding where there may be a body floating at the bottom of the pool. The rowdy and inappropriate behaviour teenagers do when they think it’s funny to intimidate younger children around them. And that’s when your nifty whistle comes in handy, giving you a slight power trip.
It’s also important that you remember that your life is just as important as anyone else’s. Because if the lifeguard gets injured, who’s going to save you, as well as the casualty?
It may seem daunting, especially when I tell you that this article doesn’t describe the half of it. To put on your CV that you are qualified and proficient in lifesaving, especially when it comes to first aid, it can open up so many doors for possibilities you didn’t even realise you had. Including becoming a swimming teacher (which has significantly better pay), being able to lifeguard abroad in countries that see lifeguards from the West as a luxury to have safeguarding their pools and waterparks, or even just being experienced and skilled enough to help in a life-saving emergency.
So why not jump (or dive) into that four metre deep pool? Being able to say you can save someone’s life is just as impressive when you have it written on paper, too. Remember, if you want to do this for a job, your employer may require you to take part in staff training once a month, just to make sure that your knowledge is up to date. And you will have to renew your NPLQ every two years, but don’t worry, you won’t have to sit in a classroom for quite as long.
And remember, no running!