Today’s question comes from a person who
… works as a guide in remote areas for some time where the industry standard of first aid is a remote area or wilderness first aid certificate. I have recently hired a guide who is still a registered nurse, is she required to gain the same first aid certificate or can I recognise her current qualifications as being sufficient.
I assume that working as a guide means guide paying customers, in which case this is a business or undertaking and the work health and safety laws apply (I’ll also assume we’re not talking about WA or Victoria where the 2011 Act has not been adopted but the answer wouldn’t be any different). I’ll use Queensland as my example.
The modern focus in WHS law is risk assessment. The PCBU (the person conducting the business or undertaking) is required to do a risk assessment to determine what first aid facilities are required (Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (Qld) s 19; Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 (Qld) r 42; Workplace Health And Safety Queensland First aid in the workplace Code of practice 2014). As my correspondent says ‘I have recently hired …’ I’ll assume that they are the PCBU or own the company that is the PCBU.
As the PCBU it is up to my correspondent to do a risk assessment to determine what first aid equipment is necessary and what training is required for workers who will be called upon to do first aid. If the conclusion is that what is required is the skills contained in ‘a remote area or wilderness first aid certificate’ then it would be necessary to do an assessment of the new employees skills and competencies to determine if she has the necessary skills.
The WHS legislation has moved away from the idea of ‘you must have this ticket’ to ‘you must have the skills that are required’ so the question is what has the new guide been doing? If she has, until recently, been a remote area nurse with the RFDS or working in a remote community, or part of international aid deployments you, as the PCBU may conclude that she has all the relevant skills and knowledge. If she’s been working in an urban medical practice as the practice manager and giving children immunisations, you may think that she doesn’t have the relevant skills and knowledge. If there is an RTO that offers ‘a remote area or wilderness first aid certificate’ they may be able to assess the person’s knowledge and skills and award the certificate recognising their prior learning.
It is not the case that a nurse knows all there is to know about first aid and therefore registration as a nurse ‘outranks’ in terms of skills a remote area or wilderness first aid certificate. But nurses do have relevant skills, knowledge and experience. As the PCBU it is up to you to determine what training is required to meet the risks of your undertaking and then determine whether this person has the necessary skills.
If you are employing as a “guide” do not confuse the two – the remote area course/wilderness training should be part of their competency as a “guide” – you are not employing them as a nurse.
If there is an adverse outcome to someone – it would be interesting to see if a court would see them as having a higher knowledge than a wilderness first aid guide and therefore require more, however if they had not done the remote area nursing course, and were only employed as guide then probably not.
You need to ensure they are trained for exactly what you need – not all nurses know about wilderness first aid/remote area first aid.
Courts do not ‘see’ people as having higher knowledge, they ask what did you know, what did you do not what ticket did you have. If there is an adverse event the question for the guide/nurse is did you do all you reasonably could? for the PCBU it will be did you ensure that the person you sent out there was appropriately trained – as I said in my answer that requires consideration of a person’s training and the risks of the activity. The question is not ‘what were you employed as?’ it’s ‘what did you know?’
Registered Nurses are required to take responsibility for their practice. It would be unprofessional for an RN to work in a field where there skills and knowledge do not match and safety of care could be compromised. When RNs move to a field of work where they may lack some of the specialised relevant skills or knowledge needed it is expected that they undertake relevant professional education e.g., a Remote Area Nursing course.