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Care, compassion and compressions – David’s an expert in them all

Health Teacher and Queensland Training Awards Regional Finalist David Smith-O’Brien has a wealth of knowledge, empathy, and emotional intelligence.

Originally from New South Wales, David moved to Cairns in 2015 seeking a change of lifestyle and career balance, having dedicated most of his working life to paramedicine emergency response, and pre-hospital care, through shift work at unsociable hours. Reskilling with a teaching qualification (earlier in 2012), which David fondly describes as his “most valuable piece of paper”, David now teaches First Aid and CPR course units to a diverse range of students in very different and customised manners.

“It's incredibly rewarding and humbling to assist others on their healthcare journeys. The course content deals with trauma and grief, and this can be confronting and distressing for some. Also, the nature of our program needs to cater for a room full of people, all with different purposes as to what they want to get out of training. People come from varied professions, different skill levels, different personal experiences and all of this needs to be celebrated and utilised to benefit every learner, so when they leave the training exercise, they feel the time they’ve invested has been valuable,” David explained.

David delivers First Aid and CPR units to a range of different groups including aspiring and accomplished healthcare professionals, those requiring skills (and refreshers) for licencing or at their workplace, students from a broad range of diverse audiences and cultural affiliation, and people from multiple industries including health, trades, marine and hospitality. David’s first training role with TAFE Queensland saw him work with Indigenous and remote communities offering first aid training to rangers, aged care and other services. This experience saw David’s adaptability in delivery realised.

“We didn’t teach in a classroom environment, we adapted the training to suit our exceptionally capable clients, which saw us provide really hands-on learning. This customised-for-the-client approach applies everywhere now for our First Aid and CPR qualifications — from the skilled learner requiring re-certification, learners who are new to the subject matter, learners who value contact time, kinaesthetic learners and those who prefer to self pace. The content is incredibly important, so to deliver it in a way that’s going to be best received and absorbed, and equitably so, is key,” said David.

David is so passionate about healthcare, outside of his time with TAFE Queensland he attends varied and extensive professional development opportunities. For example, he regularly volunteers as emergency staff personnel with a private ambulance service at local sporting and community events. Similarly, given the essential nature of the material he teaches, David is regularly travelling to remote regions for course delivery. David loves to connect with the community and will often volunteer in various capacities in the areas he visits. To this date, he has volunteered at Doomadgee and Mornington Island aged care services.

“Many of these service providers are short on resources, so this assists them, and inevitably my learning too. I get a better understanding of what happens in these spaces — especially within the many Indigenous communities,” he said.

Going above and beyond and ensuring life-saving knowledge, techniques and best-practice techniques are available to all is no doubt one of the many reasons David was a finalist in this year’s Queensland Training Awards for his region.

Another example of David’s flexible delivery saw him develop an appropriate and fully-customised assessment for a student who had a T3 spinal injury. David’s student was able to perform supported compressions, using a pillow for control and stability, and the removal of one wheelchair wheel. After his student completed the assessment, David and the student talked about real-world application of her abilities, to empower her to assist if/when an emergency situation presents itself.

David has also facilitated a cohort of employees through an impromptu debrief and counselling session, following a fatality that had happened recently at the group’s workplace. David’s flexible, accommodating and empathetic approach presented opportunity for the group to debrief, and then subsequently participate in the original training exercise.

Finally, it will come as little surprise that David was also able to quickly pivot his teaching methods when COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions hit, utilising online classrooms for delivery and spending time fine tuning the TAFE Queensland's online self-paced learning resources. And when lockdowns lifted David worked tirelessly with his Professional Learning Community to develop safe training strategies to allow them to physically return to the training space.

A teacher who is equally passionate about his subject matter, his students’ wellbeing, and equity in learning? David personifies the TAFE Queensland difference.