Many of us have had dreams of saving someone’s life. It’s a common fantasy for many people to see someone in trouble and to be the one who rescues them; it’s an altruistic act which makes the world a little better, it gives us a feeling of immense well-being and satisfaction, and we’re saving someone’s life, which reinforces our sense of purpose.
It’s a safe bet that most people won’t get the chance to save someone’s life in their working career, or in their personal life. In some ways, that’s a good thing; there’s a lot of pressure on you if you encounter someone who needs help, and you may not be able to help them. If, however, you’re one of the lucky people whose career involves saving people on a regular basis, the sense of fulfilment and job satisfaction is enormous.
One such job is that of the pool lifeguard. Lifeguards keep a close eye on what’s happening in and around the swimming pool, ensuring that any trouble is stifled before it gets out of hand and that anyone who needs help is able to get it quickly and without fuss. If you’re a parent, the security of knowing that there’s a great lifeguard at your local pool when your kid goes swimming is second to none.
If you’re reading this and thinking you’re in desperate need of a change of career, we fully understand. Being a pool lifeguard is satisfying and flexible; most lifeguard jobs are part-time, which means you can fit them around other things going on in your life like educational studies or other part-time work. It’s also fantastic to have on your CV; employers like to see you’re proactive and helpful, and few jobs are as proactive or helpful as lifeguarding. In addition, it’s great for career progression in many different directions: leisure industry, emergency services, and other such professions.
But, you ask, how do I become a pool lifeguard? What are the steps involved in qualifying for this position? Well, if this is something you’re seriously considering, we have good news: the steps aren’t as long or involved as you might think. Of course, not just anyone can become a pool lifeguard; you wouldn’t want to entrust the lives of people you know to unqualified amateurs. That said, the qualification itself isn’t too difficult to achieve, and it’s widely available in the UK, so there’s never been a better time to start.
The course you need to undertake if you want to be a lifeguard is called the National Pool Lifeguard Qualification, or NPLQ for short. This course is taught almost everywhere in mainland UK, with a handful of centres available in Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. For the most part, the NPLQ is taught in England, and it’s the most widely recognised qualification for pool lifeguards, so no matter where you’re getting a job as a lifeguard your qualification will carry weight.
The NPLQ is a 36-hour course in total, and it’s quite demanding and intensive. It’s split into three different sections, each of which we’ll go into a little here. The first section is entitled “The Lifeguard and the Law, Swimming Pool Supervision”, and it’s a crash course in health and safety as well as the legal status and situation of a pool lifeguard. Each section has three elements; the first section’s elements are “The Lifeguard and the Law”, “Swimming Pool, Hazards and Control Measures”, and “Swimming Pool Supervision”. This first section is all about ensuring you know your safety around the pool, and can relay that information to visitors.
The second section is titled “Intervention and Rescue and Emergency Action Plans”, and focuses around helping those who are injured in the pool. The first element, “Intervention and Rescue”, teaches prospective lifeguards about intervening in potentially dangerous situations and assisting those involved; the second, “Rescue of a Casualty with a Suspected Spinal Injury”, goes into detail about the specialist procedures required to assist spinal injury sufferers in the pool; and the third, “Emergency Action Plan”, lays out a set of ground rules for taking emergency action if a situation does arise.
Finally, the third section is entitled “Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR), AED and First Aid”, and this is quite an intense part of the course. In this section, you’ll learn how to administer CPR to pool visitors who have stopped breathing or require breathing assistance, as well as basic first aid as it’s taught in standardised courses elsewhere. You’ll also learn the AED (Automated External Defibrillation) procedure, which involves defibrillating those who are having heart problems.
The NPLQ is a mixture of theory and practice, and will require you to be as physically and mentally fit as possible. You’ll need to be able to swim 50 metres in under 60 seconds, tread water for 30 seconds, and swim 100 metres continuously on front and back in deep water, as well as demonstrating a series of pool entrance and exit procedures which you may be required to perform during emergency situations. It’s a gruelling, difficult qualification, but once you’ve passed, you’ll be qualified to be a pool lifeguard.
All in all, there are many excellent reasons to become a pool lifeguard. The hours are varied and flexible, so they can fit around other commitments you may have, and you’re very likely to be working with a team of people, which will give you experience in team participation (and potentially leadership, if you wish to progress that far). The leisure industry is very kind to pool lifeguards; most leisure managers begin life as lifeguards, so the opportunities for career progression are excellent.
It’s true that the NPLQ qualification is grueling, but that’s just a way to separate those who are truly passionate about this venerable profession from those who simply don’t have what it takes. Undertaking the course will be one of the most challenging things you do in your life, but it’s nothing compared to the lives you’ll be saving and the difference you’ll be making to people’s lives as a pool lifeguard.