What to say to someone while you’re doing first aid on them

Wow, we get some interesting questions from blog visitors. It’s hard to know where to start with this one as it seems to come instinctively now – just be yourself. Still, there are some hints and tips we can share about what to say to someone while you’re doing first aid on them.

What NOT to say – 4 basic traps

Perhaps this is the easier place to start! What not to say to someone while you’re doing first aid on them. Obviously there’s plenty you shouldn’t say or discuss, but here are four traps that are easy to fall into. Try and avoid them.

Don’t make a diagnosis: unless you’re an MD. Sure you may think it’s epilepsy, but there are a dozen other causes of seizures. Do you know it’s diabetes and not, say, a pancreatic tumor? We think not. Leave the diagnosing to the docs. If you need to say something, then “It looks like…” or “It could be…” But make it clear this is only your best guess.

Don’t make promises you aren’t able to keep. If you offer to phone family for an injured person, be sure to do it. If you promise to stay until help arrives, then stay. ‘Promises’ also includes platitudes like “Everything will be OK.” Really? And we have your personal, medical guarantee on that? Better to stick with truths like “I’ve seen worse” – if you have, but….

Don’t belittle their experience. Sure you’ve seen worse, and you’re wondering what all the fuss is about. Still, if they’ve come to track you down and ask for help, then they think the injury is important. Respect that and help them – even if you are going to laugh about it later on.

Don’t ‘fear the worst’. They’re already worried about what is happening to them. They don’t need you to add to that – you’re supposed to be a source of comfort. “Oh **** you’re having a heart attack” isn’t comforting – even if it is true. “This might hurt” is reasonable, but not so much “you’ll never walk again”.

This might hurt

This might hurt

Ok, so that’s the traps and what not to say, but back to the big (and slightly long) question of ‘what to say to someone while you’re doing first aid on them’. Stick to civil, polite, conversation that’s acceptable/normal to the context. Try some of the following.

What you might say

Give Direction: May or may not be needed. Things like “don’t move” or “hold this”! Taking charge of the situation makes you seem more professional and confident, even if you don’t feel like it!

Comfort & Reassure: Accidents and Injuries are often scary for people on the receiving end. It’s reassuring to know there’s an ambulance on the way, or “I can help”. One of our Facebook fans told us the best thing she’d ever been told was “You’re safe now”.

First Aid Assessment: OK, you’ve found the obvious injury – now ask about any others. Sure they put their back out lifting a heavy box, now you’re applying ice to their back ask if they dropped the box on their foot as well. Often a painful injury can prevent other, smaller injuries from being noticed in the moment. After I smashed several teeth, it took me most of an hour to notice I’d broken my hand as well.

Medical History: What else do you need to know about the person, or what would it be useful to know? Conditions, allergies, medications, etc.

Treatment: Hopefully you don’t need to be told this – explain what you’re going to do and why. People are curious and want to know, especially when it’s them with the injury.

Events leading up to the injury: Once you’re done with the medical stuff, turn your focus to what they were doing and start a conversation. So they fell while climbing? Ask them about climbing, how long have they done it? Favourite places to climb, places they dislike, why do it in the first place, has this fall put them off……? There are lots of things you can ask in situations like this. Just don’t turn it into an interrogation!

Family & Friends: An easy way to start a conversation while you’re waiting for help as long as it seems relevant.

What do you say to someone while doing first aid on them?

So, what exactly were you doing?

Future plans: Maybe a conversation piece, but be careful with this one. Asking the dude who’s injured during a marathon when his next one is would be reasonable to talk about while waiting for the ambulance. Asking him what his plans for the weekend are might seem like you’re hitting on him.

About Tony Howarth

Tony is a First Aid & CPR Instructor Trainer with Sea 2 Sky Safety Training Services and the company founder. Tony started with the British Red Cross in 1994. Has acted as first aid attendant for hundreds of events & treated many hundreds of people as a result. He is experienced in training a wide range of courses. He previously worked as an ambulance attendant with the British Red Cross. He is now in BC as a first aid instructor, and an instructor trainer (one who trains others to become instructors) Finally, Tony works at Squamish General Hospital as the pharmacist manager when not busy training safety
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2 Responses to What to say to someone while you’re doing first aid on them

  1. aquillans says:

    Great Post very informative!

  2. I like your tips which you shared in this article..
    Great Job..
    Thanks..

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