Author: Jasmin Darwich
October 29th 2023, marks the UN’s first International day of Care and Support. What a nice idea, you may think, but hang on a moment, shouldn’t we really be caring for and supporting one other all the time anyway?
In fact, this day is intended to recognise the importance of caring work, and the crucial role that carers – both paid and unpaid – play in the global economy.
So what is care work? How do we know it when we see it? Most of us would recognise activities such as feeding a baby or nursing a sick parent as obvious examples of direct, caring interactions. But care work also includes indirect activities such as cooking or cleaning, and in most cases these activities overlap.
Perhaps a more crucial distinction is between paid and unpaid care work. Paid care workers such as doctors, nurses, teachers, cleaners, personal carers and domestic workers, all make up the former sector. But equally crucial to the global economy is the labour of unpaid care workers, mostly women, caring for their families, or extended families. The UN now recognises that these important activities constitute work, and, even if those doing it are not directly remunerated themselves, it still has a significant impact on the world’s economy.
This sector is growing significantly across the world, as demands for child and elder-care increase in all regions, and it is likely to generate increasing numbers of jobs in the coming years. But it is also a sector that is characterised by an absence of employment protection or benefits, low, or no wages, and exposure to physical, mental, and in some cases sexual harm.
The UN Day of Care and Support represents a first step towards highlighting the need for change and reform in public policy relating to the terms and conditions of both paid and unpaid care work. If this issue is not addressed, the UN argues, it will create a severe and unsustainable global care crisis and increase gender inequalities at work.
Most of the necessary changes will involve institutional and structural reform. These are the kinds of transformation that can only be implemented at governmental scale and usually feel far removed from our daily lives. But there are also smaller steps we can all take to observe the International Day of Care and Support in ways that have the potential to make a practical, tangible difference to the world immediately arounds us.
As a medical student and an active voice in the Young European Ambassador programme in Moldova, I believe the International Day of Care is a good opportunity to highlight the importance of a very simple form of care and support that can make a life-saving difference: basic first aid training.
Think of first aid as the superhero training of the medical world, one that comes into play at a critical point, when those initial moments can be the decisive factor between life and death. Simply put, it plays a pivotal role in saving lives. Basic first aid skills are not difficult to master, but they can be crucial to ensuring better outcomes and a safer environment for us all. With appropriate training, people are less likely to panic and will feel more confident about taking steps that could save a life.
Imagine a scenario where you are confronted by superficial burns, a suspected hand fracture, or someone who has collapsed and appears to have stopped breathing. Are you confident of your ability to handle such situations correctly? Would you know what to do, and in what order? Or would you just panic? This is where training in basic first aid skills comes into play.
Our schools and educational institutions should have the capacity to teach students how to deal with emergencies from both a psychological and practical perspective. Teaching staff should be equipped with the necessary skills to effectively educate students about emergency procedures. For instance, basic first-aid training can equip you with the skills to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), a life-saving emergency procedure that combines chest compressions and artificial ventilation.
But even without any training at all, you can make a difference in an emergency situation by following these basic steps:
- Keeping Calm: Maintaining composure is essential from a psychological standpoint. Panic can hinder one’s ability to follow the correct protocol, potentially worsening the situation.
- Checking Safety: Ensure the scene is safe. Any hazards or risks, such as fires, must be addressed by calling the appropriate authorities before approaching the scene.
- Calling for Help: Calling an ambulance is of paramount importance. Delaying this call can be a critical mistake.
- Checking Vital Signs: Check for basic vital signs, including body temperature, respiration rate, pulse rate, pupil reaction to light, and skin colour.
One other simple step that we can all take is to check that our homes, places of work or education have a first aid kit – one that is checked regularly that has up-to-date contents. These should include: different sized plasters and sterile gauze and eye dressings, bandages, safety pins, disposable sterile gloves, tweezers, scissors, alcohol-free cleansing wipes, sticky tape, a digital thermometer, hydrocortisone, antiseptic and antihistamine creams, painkillers, distilled water, eye wash and an eye bath.
As a trainee doctor, at the start of my career, I hope that the International Day of Care and Support succeeds in bringing about significant change in the care sector. But change on this scale is going to take time. The simple steps listed above, by contrast, represent quick and easily ways in which we can all support and care for ourselves and our communities in an effective and impactful way.