What Are the National Lifeguard Service Course Requirements?

The National Lifeguard Service course is the final course one needs to become a qualified lifeguard. The course is 40 hours in length and is usually held over 2 full weekends. The prerequisites are that you are 16 years of age, have your Bronze Cross, Standard First Aid, and level C-CPR certificates.

There are 4 type of NLS courses you can take. The one you take will depend on where you plan on lifeguarding. The 4 options are; Pool, Water Park, Waterfront, and Surf. The information below is relevant to the pool option, as this is the one most people take. To complete this course a candidate must be able to complete all the requirements.

The topics in this course are:

  1. Pool Analysis: this deals with safety rules, recognizing high risk activities, proper pool maintenance, and environmental hazards.
  2. Supervision: this involves proper scanning and observation techniques, quickly identifying accidents, and recognizing patrons in need of assistance. It also deals with bather load, equipment location, placement of guards around the pool, blind spots, and danger areas.
  3. Entries and Removals: knowing appropriate entries based on the victim type is crucial, as well as being able to remove victims from the water in a safe manner based upon the type of victim that is presented.
  4. Specialized Techniques: this topic deals with learning ways to cope when obstacles are presented. For example, deep water spinals, bulkheads that are in the way, injuries on steps/stairs/ramps, etc.
  5. Pool Search for missing person: with the risk of a missing person being at the bottom of the person, or a parent that lost their child, being able to quickly recognize and organizing a quick efficient search is vital.
  6. Physical Standards: the 4 skills below are done in such a way so the examiner can observe one candidate at a time. They are not done as part of a team.
    • Spinal Carry: lifeguard is required to perform an effective lifesaving kick (egg beater, whip kick, or scissor kick), while immobilizing and rolling over a spinal victim, while supporting the victim's face above the water. The distance required is a minimum of 15 meters and is done in the deep end. During the entire carry the victim must be fully immobilized.
    • Object Recovery: for this skill there is a 15 meter approach towards the deep end. The swimmer performs a surface dive to recover a 9kg object, then carry the object to the wall to be placed on deck. The object is to be placed at a depth of 3 meters and should be 5 meters from the poolside.
    • Approach and Carry: the rescuer begins in the shallow end, performs a 15 meter approach towards the deep end where there is a near-drowning victim. Rescuer carries the victim 5 meters to the deep end wall. During the approach the rescuer must surface dive under and around the victim so they can not be grabbed. During the carry the rescuer must be safely behind the victim, while the victim's shoulders are above the water. Rescuers must demonstrate that they can do this rescue without putting themselves in danger of the panicking victim.
    • Rescue Drill: rescuer demonstrates a 5 meter approach on deck, enters the water, swims 15 meters, recovers a submerged victim, then carries the victim 15 meters using a control carry. Rescuer must demonstrate that they can support the victim's mouth and nose above the water during the control carry.
  7. Lifeguarding Situation: this involves demonstrating that rescuers can perform effective rescues. The rescuers are placed in guard teams, victims are selected in secret, and rescuers must recognize the victim, recognize the problem, and perform an effective rescue while working as a team.

From my experience as an NLS instructor/examiner most candidates have problem with the physical standard-Object Recovery. Some candidates have trouble bringing the object up and carrying it to the wall. Some have trouble getting to the bottom to pick it up. Secondly, candidates with a weak kick also have trouble with the Physical Standard-Spinal Carry. This requires a strong kick to hold the victim high enough and to move fast enough towards shallow water. Thirdly, if candidates have difficulty in completing the Physical Standards they will also have trouble in the Lifeguarding Situations. This occurs because the rescues will involve dealing with victims such as submerged, spinals, and near-drowning. So, obviously if they can not deal with these victim types in a controlled situation then they will have trouble dealing with them during a rescue.

My suggestion to new candidates, before going to the course, is to learn the egg beater and learn it well. This is the strongest and most effective kick, and it comes into play in so many of the skills. The egg beater is not a requirement for the course, but it is the best lifesaving kick.

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