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Why do doctors need to do first aid training?

Here’s one of life’s more puzzling mysteries – why do doctors need to do first aid training?

After all, don’t doctors do a 6-year degree course which is all about the human body and what to do when something bad happens to it, like disease or an accident?

That is true. Doctors do study an enormous amount of information about the human body and are very, very knowledgeable about it. So, you might wonder why, in Australia, doctors, nurses and other medical personnel are required to do first aid training.

Well for a start, a lot of what doctors study in their medical training is all about disease and how to treat people who are sick and unwell from disease. And while they do understand exactly what happens to the human body when you suffer a heart attack, a stroke, break your leg, nearly drown or get bitten by snake, accidents are NOT diseases.

Also, have you ever noticed in hospital who comes and changes the dressings on your wounds? The doctor? No generally it’s a nurse. Apart from the fact that it’s cheaper for a hospital to pay a nurse to change dressings than doctors, it’s also true that unless they are general practitioners, doctors might not be so “hands on” in their day-to-day work as much as nurses are.

So, despite all their medical training, doctors don’t necessarily get trained in how to do CPR for example as that is a skill specific to first aid training, not medical training. Or if they did, it might have been 20 years since they learnt. They might also not have been trained in how to use an AED. Or a dozen other things that are taught in a first aid course.

The same is often true of nurses and other medical professionals. Just like many medical people, first aid training is a SPECIALISED course that teaches very specific skills that are directly related to first aid.

So while a trained nurse for example, would know how to bandage a wound or stop someone bleeding, they might not know how to do other specific first aid skills.

In Australia, we have a system that regulates all first aid training and controls who can issue first aid certificates that state a person can DO what they have been trained in. It’s a good system as it also insists that people must stay up to date with the latest developments in first aid training and so the certificates issued expire after a period of time. The Royal College of General Practitioners also states that doctors should retrain in CPR every 3 years.

So many doctors, nurses and other health professionals, including allied health professionals such as physios, chiros, dentists, etc, will often get trained in first aid as a supplement to their general knowledge about the human body and how to fix it.

This does NOT invalidate their medical training. On the contrary it supplements it and makes them a better all-round doctor, nurse or allied health professional. To get training for your clinic please contact us or book at


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