Last updated: 29.03.22

What is First Aid Training?

Many people undertake some form of first aid training at some point in their lives. Whether it’s done as part of your education at school, a requirement for a job or part of professional development, learning the skills that can be used in a range of emergencies can be a massive benefit if you do end up in a situation where someone needs medical assistance.

If you’ve never undertaken first aid training, you may be wondering what it actually involves and the kind of things you will be required to learn and do to receive a first aider qualification. This post explains all of the common medical scenarios that first aid training will help to prepare you for, as well as listing different types of first aid courses and what they involve.

What Is Included in First Aid Training?

There are a range of different types of first aid training, which means the content of each course varies.

Most first aid courses begin with a general introduction to the role of a first aider, what they are expected to do in different situations and what their responsibilities are. You’ll be talked through the contents of a basic first aid kit, and instructed on what kind of accidents or injuries each item should be used for. You’ll also be shown the kinds of incident forms that need to be filled in if an accident happens within a workplace environment.

The key thing that is focused on during basic first aid training is how to respond in a variety of first aid scenarios and emergencies. These will range from minor cuts and scrapes to situations where someone is unconscious or having a seizure.

Here are some examples of the conditions or accidents that first aid training will cover:

You will also learn other useful first aid skills such as how to stay calm and manage an emergency, when you should call for an ambulance, and how best to support someone until experienced medical professionals arrive to take care of them.

Whilst the above scenarios are examples of some of the most basic first aid procedures and situations, many other conditions or incidents are covered in some types of first aid courses. As well as general first aid training, you can also undertake courses that focus on things like heart attacks, or which are designed for people that work with children or in educational environments.

Below are some of the most common first aid courses and details of what each of these involves.

Essential First Aid Training

Essential first aid training is designed for anyone to undertake as a way to broaden their knowledge of what to do in some of the most common medical emergency scenarios. These are often run by providers like St John’s Ambulance and can be attended by people of all ages and backgrounds.

Topics covered in essential first aid training include the recovery position, choking, seizures, bleeding, unconsciousness and CPR.

These kinds of first aid courses don’t usually involve an official assessment. Instead, the provider will get everyone to practically demonstrate what they have learnt throughout the course, and as long as there are no obvious mistakes, everyone will pass. 

Workplace First Aid Training

Workplace first aid training, also referred to as First Aid at Work training, is one of the most popular courses undertaken by first aiders. It complies with HSE legislation that requires every workplace to have a trained first aider and is suitable for people in the majority of industries who want to gain knowledge of what to do in all kinds of medical situations that can occur in the workplace.

This type of first aid course is more thorough than basic first aid training and tends to be undertaken by people who work in environments where accidents are more likely. As well as basic topics that have been discussed above, this course may also cover what to do in the event of head injuries, eye injuries, potential poisoning or ingesting of toxic substances, burns and scalds, broken bones and spinal injuries.

First Aid at Work courses are quite comprehensive, and will therefore often take more than one day to complete. There will often be a written assessment at the end of the course, which shouldn't require revision as long as you have paid attention to everything covered by the instructor.

Emergency First Aid at Work

An Emergency First Aid at Work training course is the usual requirement for all kinds of workplaces. If you work in an environment like an office or a retail establishment where accidents are uncommon, this course covers the basics that you may need to know in the event of a medical emergency.

This level of basic first aid training is suitable when an official risk assessment states that a trained first aider must be present at work at all times. It covers all of the most common scenarios where first aid may be required and also gives details of the procedures that need to be followed when filling in accident forms or reporting injuries.

It usually takes a day to receive this kind of first aid certification with a short written assessment at the end of the course.

Schools First Aid

You can take a regular workplace first aid training course if you’re a first aider that works in a school, but there are also specific school first aid courses that focus on treating a range of injuries and conditions in children and what you need to consider when dealing with young people. Scenarios such as choking or resuscitation need to be handled slightly differently when the person who needs help is a child, meaning that staff have more relevant first aid knowledge that will be more valuable in an emergency.

Filling in first aid forms is especially important in a school environment, as there is a lot of legislation tied up in reporting injuries as well as the necessity of being able to tell parents or guardians what may have happened to their child. School first aid courses will cover this, along with expectations that a school first aider in particular will be expected to meet.

Paediatric First Aid

Paediatric first aid courses are similar to specific school first aid training, but instead focus on teaching participants how to handle a range of medical emergencies when they affect babies or young children. They’re aimed at people like nursery workers, childminders and early years professionals who work with young children and babies in line with official Ofsted Early Years and Childcare Registration requirements.

The topics covered in this kind of first aid training are still common scenarios like choking, bleeding, fainting, seizures and unconsciousness but require different responses and treatment because of the age of the unwell person.

Defibrillator and CPR Training

As defibrillators are becoming more common in public places, many first aid training providers now offer specific courses in using a defibrillator and giving CPR in cases where someone has a heart attack or similar problem that stops them from breathing. These tend to be short courses that anyone can attend, and are a useful supplement to basic first aid training if you want to feel more confident responding to situations where someone needs resuscitating.

The short length of this course means that assessment isn’t usually necessary. Instead, the instructor will watch each participant practising what they have learnt, and as long as there are no major issues, everyone should receive a qualification.

Why Is First Aid Training Important?

The key reason why it is so important to learn first aid is that it can save lives. The likelihood of you having to put your first aid training into practice is quite low, but in the event of an emergency, knowing what to do if someone is bleeding, choking or unconscious for example can keep them alive until proper medical help arrives.

First aid training is also important because it is a legal requirement in many workplaces. Having a trained first aider on site at all times is a necessary part of a risk assessment in certain environments, and failing to meet this requirement could not only risk the lives of employees, but leave you susceptible to legal damage if it is discovered that your employees are not first aid trained.

Knowing how to do basic first aid is good for self-confidence and can help to make people feel more relaxed and secure in a variety of situations. In a work environment, this confidence and knowledge mean that accidents are less likely to happen, as employees know how to avoid risky situations and can spot hazards before they develop into anything serious.

Finally, first aid training is incredibly valuable when you compare the cost of a course to the cost of serious injury, damage or even the loss of a life. Most courses are incredibly accessible and reasonably low-cost, so the benefits hugely outweigh any costs.

How Long Does a First Aid Course Take?

There are a range of different ways you can take a first aid course, from watching online tutorials to attending training sessions in person, which means that the time it takes to complete a first aid course varies a little. Usually, a comprehensive first aid course can be completed in a day across 7-8 hours of training, whilst refresher courses will probably only take a couple of hours to work through.

If you’re undertaking a more specialised first aid course, this will probably take longer than a day to complete. For example, paediatric first aid is a lot more complex than a basic course, and therefore usually takes a few days to work through all the content.


What is a first aider?

A first aider is someone who has undertaken appropriate first aid training and is therefore qualified to treat people who need minor medical assistance. In a situation where medical attention is required, a first aider should be called upon to deliver care and make decisions about whether further help may be needed.

The role of first aider is common in all kinds of workplaces and may be a title held by several different people who are responsible for delivering first aid at different times. You may see signs indicating who first aiders are in a variety of situations, letting you know who to call on if there’s an accident.

Can you fail a first aid course?

It is possible to fail a first aid course, although this doesn’t happen very regularly. You will be assessed in some way at the end of all types of first aid training, and if you fail to pass this assessment you will fail the course and have to take another one to qualify as a first aider.

How long is a first aid certificate valid for?

Official guidance from HSE states that first aid certificates last for three years. Before these three years are up, you or your employer are responsible for booking another first aid course to make sure that your knowledge is up to date and you are fit to continue as an official first aider.


In an ideal world, you’ll never have to use any of the training that you learned in a first aid course. But having the skills and the experience to respond to a variety of medical emergencies and provide short-term care can make a huge impact and be the difference between life or death, making first aid training an incredibly worthwhile undertaking.

If you’re looking for an online first aid training course, why not take a look at our ‘First Aid at Work Course: Primary Survey’ offering, suitable for anyone looking to gain new first aid skills or keep their current skills up to date.