CNN named being a lifeguard in their “top ten summer jobs“. They say, “The best refuge from the sun is a day at the pool or water park. If you don’t mind dealing with hyper children and relish the chance to soak in the rays while getting paid to monitor swimmers, look into being a lifeguard.”

What they fail to mention is the level of training that most lifeguards receive. I speak from experience. I have been a Red Cross certified lifeguard since 1999. I’ve been a Red Cross instructor since 2003. Today’s lifeguards are trained to provide CPR at a professional level. In fact, this might be scary for you… but lifeguards are better trained than many health care professionals (Doctors and nurses). Med students receive CPR training at the beginning of their schooling, but may never be re-certified or practice it, unless they are in trauma services or in cardio related areas. 

Today’s lifeguards are trained to pull a person who has suffered a suspected spinal injury off the bottom of the deep end of a pool with no assistance (no rescue tube), maintain in-line stabilization (keeping their spine and neck straight) and work in tandem with other guards to put them on a backboard. A well-trained and well-practiced guard team can have a person out of the water in approximately five-minutes, then is trained to administer first aid, and use an AED and administer supplemental oxygen if necessary.

The lesson… lifeguards do get good tans. We enjoy our jobs. However, lifeguards are very well trained… but are often treated by parents as nothing but babysitters… very low-paid babysitters. If you have the opportunity, thank a lifeguard, and also push for better pay. There is a lifeguard shortage all around the country, with much of the blame being put on groups who refuse to pay much above minimum wage.


Good Thing – First Aid Training

My stack of American Red Cross certification cards is pretty big. It includes Lifeguarding, CPR/AED for the Professional Rescuer, Oxygen Administration, Bloodborne Pathagens, Emergency Response, and Standard First Aid and CPR. I’m certified in all those areas and I also serve as an instructor.

Guess what… in my ten years as lifeguard and five years as an instructor… I’ve only got in the water once in a rescue and the most extensive first aid I’ve done is do some heavy duty bandaging on a kid at camp.

My wife (who I’ve taught in FA/CPR) however, has had two seperate occasions where she has been the primary rescuer. Once at a Panera (I think) when a worker had a seizure (she was standing in line) and today at her current employment (a food service establishment) when a patron fainted.

I’m certainly proud of my wife… but it does seem funny that I’ve never had to deal with anything like that before. I guess I shouldn’t complain.