eLearning to the rescue

eLearning has proved invaluable in the rush to upskill both staff and volunteers in the coronavirus pandemic, enabling St John Ambulance Cymru to support the NHS at this critical time.

St John Ambulance Cymru has successfully been using eLearning for some time, to deliver mandatory topics, such as manual handling, to both its staff and volunteers. Prior to having eLearning, it might have taken a few weeks from somebody joining or volunteering before they received this critical learning. 

This content is compulsory before anyone can go out ‘into the field’, so it meant that people were unproductive for far too long. And in some cases, volunteers would lose interest. Now, eLearning provided by the Charity Learning Consortium, alongside bespoke content created in house by St John Ambulance Cymru, is available from day one. Providing the same eLearning, to the same standard, to everyone also delivers a more equal learning experience to both staff and volunteers.

The Covid-19 pandemic is now providing Toria Acreman, Internal Training Manager, with another opportunity to prove eLearning’s value to the organisation. The charity’s response to the virus has created an urgent need to upskill both staff and volunteers, to enable the charity to fulfil its important partnership with the NHS in Wales. 

As Toria explains:We have actively been using eLearning to assist in the training of our staff and volunteers since 2017. Its popularity has increased dramatically since introducing it, which gave us a really good platform to quickly respond to an urgent need when required.”

Maintaining its core services to save lives and support the NHS Wales
St John Ambulance Cymru’s workforce is involved in two critical services: the Patient Transportation Service and the Falls Assist Programme. Staff transport patients to and from hospital, and are the first to attend calls for assistance if someone has fallen over and can’t help themselves up. If, after assessing patients, there’s still an urgent need, they can contact the ambulance service directly.  

These are essential, life saving services, which can only be undertaken by suitably trained staff. In a situation where the charity’s staff were adversely affected by Covid-19, it would struggle to support the NHS at this critical time – placing the health service under even more strain.

Toria has therefore been busy creating new eLearning courses to provide redeployed staff with the knowledge they need to undertake these front-line services. This was previously being delivered in the classroom, so she rapidly reworked content for virtual delivery. 

The eLearning courses concentrate on understanding the clinical response to deliver these services. Shorter classroom sessions then provide the opportunity for skills practice and validation. Given social distancing requirements, classroom sessions are restricted to up to six people each time. This new approach means that St John Ambulance Cymru is more confident that it can continue to meet its obligations, at a time of increased demand.

Upskilling its volunteers
The charity is also now calling upon its volunteers to support them in new ways, such as helping out at field hospitals. This has required a significant upskilling programme, which could only be met through using eLearning. Toria has certainly had her hands full, developing a large number of new courses to meet these urgent needs. 

For example, she has created content on infection control, as well as how to put on and take off personal protective equipment safely. Given the importance of doing the latter correctly, the Welsh Ambulance Service is using St John Ambulance Cymru’s content to train its volunteer Community First Responders.  

New eLearning courses have also been produced on how to take basic patient observations, such as blood pressure, oxygen saturations, tympanic temperature and blood glucose testing. As part of the patient testing regime, new eLearning has been created to train volunteers in the National Early Warning Score system, which determines the condition of a patient based on a series of observations. In addition, Toria has created modules on consent and capacity, patient handover, the theory of medical gasses and other role-specific requirements. Half day face-to-face workshops reinforce learning. 

Using eLearning to deliver business continuity
Through the great work that Toria has undertaken, St John Ambulance Cymru is realising the benefits of eLearning. The use of eLearning has soared, with a more than 2,000% increase in course completions in April 2020 to the same time last year. It’s being used to support the organisation during exceptionally challenging times, when external factors are having a critical impact on its operations. 

She has rapidly taken existing classroom content and – using Articulate 360 – repurposed the theoretical elements into effective eLearning. This has been coupled with shorter classroom sessions. These rapid changes ultimately mean St John Ambulance Cymru has been able to ensure that its staff and volunteers are prepared for whatever Covid-19 might throw at them, as they support the NHS in Wales.

Mental health awareness
Toria has now turned her attention to creating new modules to support the mental health of St John Ambulance Cymru’s staff and volunteers. Covid-19 is creating new, challenging situations that haven’t been encountered before – or on such a large scale. Resources to support wellbeing – in topics like loneliness, exercise and grief – will help ensure everyone is able to continue to deliver the lifesaving, essential service the charity provides. 

About St John Ambulance Cymru
St John Ambulance Cymru is Wales’ leading first aid charity, teaching people lifesaving skills – including physical and mental health first aid – so they can be the difference between a life lost and a life saved. Every year, it delivers training to more than 45,000 people.

A volunteer-led charity, the organisation has approximately 4,500 volunteers, half of which are under the age of 18. Volunteers undergo extensive training, so they’re equipped to deal with medical emergencies and pass on vital lifesaving skills to others in local communities. 

The charity provides emergency first aid, medical cover at events and transports patients to and from hospital to support the Welsh Ambulance Service. It works closely with NHS Wales, local health boards, social services, private hospitals, insurance companies and individuals, operating seven days a week, 365 days a year.

About Toria Acreman

Toria is the Internal Training Manager at St John Ambulance Cymru. She has been at St John Ambulance Cymru since 2006 – her first full time job after finishing a Law degree at Cardiff University. Law really wasn’t for her, she discovered, and she is much happier working within the charity sector. She has had a few different roles in the organisation, and been the Internal Training Manager since 2014. She found learning how to create eLearning content daunting at first, but advancements in authoring tools have made life easier.
Outside of work charity is still very much in her heart.

Along with her husband and friends, they have successfully launched a new charity called The Rescue Hotel, which supports hundreds of dogs that sadly find themselves residing at Cardiff Dogs Home each year. In less than six months they have established a recognised brand name in South Wales, gained a charity number and got their first celebrity ambassador, Sam Warburton. Education on responsible pet ownership is one of the charity’s objectives and Toria is hoping to transfer some of the skills she has learnt in her day job to creating online courses for The Rescue Hotel.

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