Two of City’s nursing students are teaching first-aid classes to young Londoners most at risk of experiencing youth violence.
As part of the charity, StreetDoctors, third year student Aoife Scanlan, (BSc Children’s Nursing) and second year student Rachel Moisan, (BSc Adult Nursing), have been visiting schools and youth centres across North-East London, teaching first-aid to 11-25 year olds who are at risk of experiencing youth violence.
StreetDoctors is a charity dedicated to teaching life-saving skills to young people who are at most risk of experiencing knife crime. Built up of 430 volunteers in 16 different UK cities, Street Doctors teaches classes in what to do if someone is bleeding or unconscious.
The two nursing students who have recently been made co-team leaders of the North-East London StreetDoctors branch, spent the last year working with the charity gaining experience, including a nomination at the RCNi Awards.
After being faced with the aftermath of a stabbing while on her second-year placement at an A&E department in a North London hospital, Aoife joined StreetDoctors to help save lives.
Aoife said: “During my placement I helped treat a 15-year-old boy with abdominal stab wounds. I remember being in shock from hearing the story of what had happened, his injuries were not life threatening but there was a lot of blood on the floor, chairs and bed.
“The doctors and nurses were rushing around getting theatres ready and the situation felt very tense. Although the scariest part was how young the boy looked, he wasn’t particularly very big or tall – he was just a child.
Now 21-years-old, Aoife is teaching some of the same skills that were used to treat that patient on her placement, to young Londoners who may come face-to-face with these situations.
Speaking on how they lead the classes, 22-year-old Rachel said: “We start with a basic biology lesson, going through the human body, how many organs and how much blood we have and what happens if you lose a particular amount of blood.
“A lot of it is about removing preconceptions about what do to with someone who has experienced youth violence. Using a spoon and a bottle of blackcurrant squash, we show what would happen if you remove the knife from a victim, as the liquid imitates blood leaking more quickly from the bottle, which acts as the body.”
Aoife added that: “A lot of the kids we teach already feel disenfranchised with education, as they have either dropped out of school or already been passed through the legal system.
“At the start it is difficult to get them to concentrate, so we have to find practical ways of getting them involved. This includes using props which are handed around and teaching with games, to make sure that they learn it with you rather than just listen to you.”
An emotional but positive impact
There have been over 100 fatal stabbings in the capital since the start of 2019, both Rachel and Aoife admit that there is an emotional toll when leading these classes.
Aoife said: “A lot of the children we teach have carried knives or have criminal records already. Some of them don’t want to be there and have chosen to accept this as their life now, so it is very difficult to try and explain the dangers of knife crime to them.
“Almost all of them raise their hands when we ask the ice breaker question of who has seen a violent crime before.”
Rachel added that: “The stories we hear in the classrooms can be very hard to take, they can range from kids as young as 11 saying that they have experienced violence or how some have lost their friends or family members to knife crime.
Despite feeling discouraged about some of the stories they hear, Rachel and Aoife feel their work with StreetDoctors is making a real positive impact.
Aoife said: “A lot of the kids do not trust authority figures, whether that be the police, teachers or anyone older than them. We have to help them get past their preconceived ideas, some even being that if they call the police or an ambulance, their phones will be tracked.
“That is why StreetDoctors is so important, as we are there to reassure them and talk to them as people who are closer to their age group without any judgement.
Rachel added that: “We are never alone in the classroom, we teach in pairs and rely on each other working together to try and get the kids to concentrate. We get have received some great feedback and that makes us feel like we are making a difference.”
With both students set to graduate in the next few years, Rachel and Aoife have set their sights on careers in nursing – believing that the work they are doing with StreetDoctors will prepare them for the future.
Rachel said: “Youth violence is extremely prevalent in London and that is something the NHS is trying to cope with. It is important for us to keep experiencing the shock when we hear these stories, as it would be so easy to become desensitised to it all.”
Aoife finished saying that: “Hearing these stories from young teenagers is much more telling than listening to examples in lectures or watching reports on the news.
“The shock reminds us that these stories are real and that these children are human beings – not just statistics.”