Join Our Community

Join and get my FREE ebook! We are a community of professionals dedicated to enhancing the perception of the industry and improving your success as a Massage Therapist.

Email Marketing by AWeber

From The Blog

How To Pick The First Aid Course That’s Right For You

How To Pick The First Aid Course That’s Right For You

There was an opportunity for a great job opening.

All I had to do was get my Occupational First Aid Level 3 (OFA 3) certification. It was  daunting because I’d have to use two weeks holidays from work to take the course and I had no idea what I was getting into but I wanted that job.

Didn’t matter, I was in.

I registered for the course with a local community college and was scared to death the first day as I had no idea what I’d be learning. There were all these new terms, mnemonics, and stress that I wasn’t expecting.

A full two weeks of practicing emergency scenario after emergency scenario and then came the practical exam. It was intense.

I watched a couple of students around me fail because they didn’t follow certain protocols. That only made me more nervous.

But I passed it and got the job I was hoping for.

It can get pretty confusing which First Aid course is the best one for Massage Therapists to take.

There are a variety of different levels, descriptions and requirements for each one.

In some places where it’s mandated to have your certificate, the companies to use may be specified by your College.

However courses can be offered by independent companies working under bigger national organizations, community colleges, private education institute’s, the national companies themselves and also by individual trainers.

So which one is the right course and who’s the best provider?

Here are the top four courses for a Massage Therapist to take and some ways to find the best providers to use.

How to Determine Which First Aid Course To Take

Standard First Aid CPR-C     

This course is a great starting point for Massage Therapists.

There are different levels of CPR instruction ranging as CPR-A, B, C and HCP (healthcare provider).

With each level of CPR you are introduced to a greater range of the population and given more responsibility. A CPR-A certification allows you to perform Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation on adults as well as learning how to use an AED (Automated External Defibrillator).

As you move up to a CPR-C it gets you into doing CPR on children and infants as well as learning how to use an AED.

With greater range in population and responsibility in CPR also comes more range and responsibility in delivering first aid. An Emergency First Aid Course (where typically CPR-A & B would be taught) only covers minor emergencies and wounds in addition to the CPR component.

With a Standard First Aid CPR-C you learn to deal with life threatening emergencies as well as how to deal with different injuries to prevent them from becoming a life threatening emergency. Various topics covered would include:

  • Airway, Breathing and Circulation Emergencies
  • Wounds
  • Head and Spine Injuries
  • Injuries involving Bones, Muscles, Joints
  • Sudden medical emergencies
  • Heat and Cold related Emergencies
  • Poisonings

All of the above are things that we as Massage Therapists could deal with in practice, at outreaches, on-site massage or even in day-to-day life with our families.

If you want to get just a little more advanced than a Standard First Aid, then the HCP (Health Care Professional) course would be a good starting point. It teaches you how to use devices other than your body to help people breathe as well as how to do Rescue Breathing, 2 person CPR and pulse checks (which you already know).

Workplace Emergency First Aid (W.E.F.A)

This course used to be called OFA 1 and was meant for use in various workplaces.

Much of the First Aid component to the course is very similar to Standard First Aid CPR-C. However since its intent is for employees in a workplace there is a far more legal aspect to it. There are entire components in the course regarding documentation of injuries and the First Aid that was performed on a worker. It also covers topics relating to:

  • Occupational Health and Safety
  • Workplace Written Procedures.
  • First Aid Records
  • Emergency Procedures.

While this course isn’t a typical First Aid course for most Massage Therapy clinics, I could see it being used in cases where a spa or larger clinic has employees instead of contractors.

Usually with this course one employee is designated as the First Aid person and any First Aid treatment, record keeping and First Aid room protocols are that employees responsibility.

First Responder

This is the course that Massage Therapists who want to be involved with sports teams should look into. More often it is becoming the standard course required by Sport Massage organizations and Sport Professional Practice Groups.

In some sport leagues and organizations it is a requirement for team therapists to have this certification. For instance within the BCHL the league has requirements that each team must live up to for game day operations. Their regulations stipulate that there must be:

  • A team trainer that is: A doctor or no less than; a licensed Ambulance Paramedic; Occupational First Aid level 2 or 3; a Registered Nurse; Certified Athletic Therapist (they graduate their program with a First Responder license) or a Licensed First Responder Level 3 with AED, Spinal Management and basic airway management endorsements.
  • An alternate medical person that must be at each home game to look after the treatment of players with all the same qualifications as listed for the team trainer.

At a minimum each team is required to have two First Responder Level 3’s at each game. So having this certification is not only a requirement to get involved, but may be a good stepping stone for those Massage Therapists who want to go this route with their career.

This course teaches you some more advanced care for medical emergencies and injuries in preparation to transfer the patient to Paramedics when they arrive on scene.

In the course you will learn:

  • More advanced CPR
  • Treating acute Soft Tissue, Musculoskeletal, Head, Spine, Chest, Abdominal and Pelvic injuries
  • Sudden Illness
  • Dealing with special populations, Childbirth (hope I never have to), Reaching and Moving People, Transport and Multiple Casualty Incidents

The closest equivalent course I could find for the U.S. is the Red Cross’ program “Basic Life Support For Healthcare Providers” (at least what I could find). Having this type of certification is important for working in these types of environments because the risk for injury is so much greater than a typical clinical setting. You are there to provide support to your athlete until ambulance arrives and the work you have done provides a base for the paramedics to work off of.

First Responder certifications also have limitations, they are meant to be used within certain distances from a hospital (typically under 20min travel time). This is the same certification most fire department personnel are trained to, as they are usually on scene to assist ambulance paramedics with medical calls.

With that in mind, the course is taught with the idea and assumption that you will be working with other trained responders and you would work together as a team providing care.

OFA 3 (Occupational First Aid)

This certification is the next step up from the First Responder program.

Although you learn many of the same techniques and protocols as the First Responder, you learn more about educating untrained people how to help. The course was intended for helping injured workers in industrial settings (logging, sawmills, heavy industry) with the assumption that you are the designated first aid person with untrained workers around you to help.

Where the First Responder program is designed to be within 20 minutes of a hospital, the OFA 3 is focused on providing advanced first aid for those more than 20 minutes from hospital, so you are also trained in transport. Learning how to position patients for loading on an emergency helicopter and how to provide care while transporting someone to either a hospital or an ambulance meeting you at a designated place.

For Massage Therapists this course would be good one for those who want to work in fishing lodges, heli-ski resorts, some tourism lodges and back country resorts. While it is probably not a requirement to get a job in these places it definitely wouldn’t hurt to have on your resume.

One of my friends who worked at a fishing resort said there were no other healthcare professionals on-site, so one of the guides was trained in first aid. We as healthcare professionals have a duty to help should something happen and our patients should have the confidence that we can help them in an emergency.

Photo by: Lyndsay Esson

Photo by: Lyndsay Esson


How To Determine Which Provider To Use 

The first time I did my OFA 3, I was registered with a local company and excited to start the course.

I talked to one of the First Aid attendants at work and told him I was proudly registered and ready to go. When I told him who I was taking the course with he instantly looked at me and said “cancel it, DO NOT take it with them”. Then he told me the best place and instructor to use.

This is a valuable lesson.

If you’re taking any level of First Aid training, talk to some of the local people in your community that are in the industry. Get advice on who the best teachers and providers are. When teaching courses I’m shocked when people tell me that they didn’t learn some of the basics the last time they took First Aid.

In the US the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) identifies American Heart Association, American Red Cross, National Safety Council (NSC), and private institutions as the main providers for training.

In Canada some of the bigger providers are the Heart and Stroke Foundation, Canadian Red Cross, St. John Ambulance and Canadian Ski Patrol.

Many of the independent instructors work under a license to teach first aid from one of the above companies. Look for a provider offering courses that are nationally recognized. Each Province or State may have their own standard that you must meet, try to find the courses that are nationally recognized or easily transferable in case you decide to move, it will save you having to re-certify before your license expires.

With so many courses out there take your time to decide which one is right for you and your practice. Whether you’re in a clinic, a sports team or working in an outback resort having the right certification will be a benefit to you, your career and your patients.

Hopefully after you’ll do a better job than these guys.

As the creator of the site, I hope you like what you’re reading. I’m a Registered Massage Therapist in Victoria BC, former Massage college clinical supervisor, First Responder instructor, hockey fan and volunteer firefighter. Come hang out on the facebook page, where we can share some ideas about how to improve the perception of the Massage Therapy industry.

Follow me

Jamie Johnston

Founder at The MTDC
As the creator of the site, I hope you like what you’re reading. I’m a Registered Massage Therapist in Victoria BC, former Massage college clinical supervisor, First Responder instructor, hockey fan and volunteer firefighter. Come hang out on the facebook page, where we can share some ideas about how to improve the perception of the Massage Therapy industry.
Jamie Johnston
Follow me

Latest posts by Jamie Johnston (see all)


  1. Nathan Johnson April 19, 2016

    Thanks for explaining the different types of first aid classes that are offered. My next job requires me to have a first aid certification and know CPR. I really like where you talk about working with local people to choose the best class. I will be moving soon and so I either need to find a class here and take it or ask around when I get to my new place. Thanks for sharing!

    • Jamie Johnston April 19, 2016

      Great, thanks Nathan glad it helped you out. Good luck on the move.

  2. April Cook July 14, 2016

    I didn’t realize that there were different types of first aid courses that you could take. The first responded course sounds like it would be a great certification to have. Do you have to have a special recommendation to do this training, or can anyone sign up? Thanks for sharing all this great information.

  3. Jack Mulligan August 5, 2016

    I would love to take one of the higher level first aid/cpr classes! I was a Boy Scout and learned some of the basics a long time ago, and I bet there’s plenty for me to learn. I think it’s important for everyone to learn first aid, not just Boy Scouts!

  4. Dave Anderson November 30, 2016

    I think that being CPR certified would be something very important to have just in case. I like that some of the CPR courses deal with occupational health and safety. I think that in the work place it is very important to know the safety procedures and to be able to teach them to employees as well to make sure that there are no accidents.

  5. John Craiig November 5, 2017

    These are different types of first aid classes that are offered. Thanks for sharing all this great information.


Leave a Comment