For a Navy Corpsman, first aid and emergency procedures are the professional care of the sick and injured before definitive medical attention can be obtained. Appropriate care may range from an encouraging word to a dramatic struggle to draw a person back from the brink of death. At all times, however, it must be remembered that first aid measures are temporary expedients whose purpose is to save life, to prevent further injury, and to preserve resistance and vitality. These measures are not meant to replace proper medical diagnosis and treatment procedures. A corpsman who understands this point, who knows the limits of the professional care a corpsman can offer, and who is motivated to keep abreast of new first aid equipment and procedures will be able to provide the competent care that will make the differences between life or death, temporary or permanent injury, and rapid recovery or long-term disability.
There are a few general first aid rules that you should follow in any emergency:
1. Take a moment to get organized. On your way to an accident scene, use a few seconds to remember the basic rules of first aid. Remain calm as you take charge of the situation, and act quickly but efficiently. Decide as soon as possible what has to be done and which one of the patients injuries needs attention first.
2. Unless contraindicated, make your preliminary examination in the position and place you find the victim. Moving the victim before this check could gravely endanger life, especially if the back or ribs are broken. Of course, if the situation is such that you or the victim is in danger, you must weigh this threat against the potential damage caused by premature transportation. If you decide to move the victim, do it quickly and gently to a safe location where proper first aid can be administered.
3. In a multivictim situation, limit your preliminary survey to observing for airway patency, breathing, and circulationthe immediate life-threatening conditions. Remember, irreversible brain damage can occur within 4 to 6 minutes if breathing has stopped. Bleeding from a severed artery can lethally drain the body in even less time. If both are present and you are alone, quickly handle the major hemorrhage first, and then work to get oxygen back into the system. Shock may allow the rescuer a few minutes of grace but is no less deadly in the long run.
4. Examine the victim for fractures, especially in the skull, neck, spine, and rib areas. If any are present, prematurely moving the patient can easily lead to increased lung damage, permanent injury, or death. Fractures of the innominate bone or extremities, though not as immediately lifethreatening, may pierce vital tissue or blood vessels if mishandled.
5. Remove enough clothing to get a clear idea of the extent of the injury. Rip along the seams, if possible, or cut. Removal of clothing in the normal way may aggravate hidden injuries. Respect the victims modesty as you proceed, and do not allow the victim to become chilled.
6. Keep the victim reassured and comfortable. If possible, do not allow the victim to see the wounds. The victim can endure pain and discomfort better if confident in your abilities. This is important because under normal conditions the corpsman will not have strong pain relief medications right at hand.
7. Avoid touching open wounds or burns with your fingers or unsterile objects, unless clean compresses and bandages are not available and it is imperative to stop severe bleeding.
8. Unless contraindicated, position the unconscious or semiconscious victim on his or her side or back, with the head turned to the side to minimize choking or the