Where’s the Love for Lifeguards?

Lifeguard on duty by rutlo, on Flickr. Add 40 more kids to this pool and you’ll really start to have a good time.

When I was 16, I made a really big decision. I decided to get certified to become a lifeguard. There was an outdoor pool less than a mile from where I lived, so it only seemed logical for me to sit in a tall chair and get gnarly tan lines. Back then, I didn’t realize how big this decision really was.

Fast forward seven years and three lifeguarding gigs later to me, trying to find a job outside of testing pH levels and blowing a whistle. After realizing that full time work was a hot commodity, I started applying to almost anything that offered a paycheck. I threw that almost in there because I was trying really hard not to become a lifer lifeguard. I applied to waitress positions, retail positions, secretary positions, nanny positions… the works. But all I had on my resume was lifeguarding. No big deal, right? I had a college degree. I had internships and plenty of skills that proved my capabilities and work ethic.

After several months of nothing on the job front, I started going to stores and restaurants to hand in resumes and fill out applications. Each time I handed in my application, the manager would accept it with a smile and ask if I had any experience in retail, waitressing, insert job here. The smile would fade when I replied, “No, but I do have experience in customer service.” This was true. If I could explain to irritated parents why their child couldn’t jump off a diving board, even with floaties, and be yelled at because the water was too cold, I could handle disgruntled customers.

I felt like as soon as I said “no” to experience, my resume was trashed. Maybe this was a problem that only I dealt with, but I feel like other lifeguards had the same issue. Employers see “lifeguard” and think, oh, this person just sat on her ass all day. This is partially true. Where I worked wasn’t the most exciting; the only life I actually saved in my seven years of lifeguarding was that of a baby bird. But I still dealt with a lot of shit, both figuratively and literally. And even though I never had to deal with a real life emergency situation, you better believe I was trained to handle one.

This brings me to my next point: Training. Boo hoo, I have to train someone to run a cash register. Who ever can handle the daunting task of pressing buttons in a certain order? I better wait and hire someone who’s done it before, God knows an x-lifeguard with a college degree doesn’t have the aptitude to learn this challenging process.

Want to know what I’ve been trained to do as a lifeguard?

  • Give CPR to babies, children and adults (yeah, it’s different for all of them)
  • Give the Heimlich Maneuver to conscious and unconscious babies, children and adults (still differs for each)
  • Backboard someone with a neck/back injury in shallow water
  • Backboard someone with a neck/back injury in deep water
  • Save someone who’s actively drowning
  • Save someone who’s submerged under water
  • Save myself from someone who’s trying to drown me, and then reapproach this person in a different way
  • Know the symptoms of a heart attack
  • Know the symptoms of a stroke
  • Know the symptoms of heat stroke
  • Know the difference between burns, abrasions, cuts, etc. and know how to dress each wound
  • Know how to splint a broken bone
  • Know how to use an AED machine. Yeah, the one where you yell “CLEAR!” before using to save someone’s life

I won’t bore you with more things that fellow lifeguards and myself were trained to do. I won’t tell you that each month we were required to attend meetings during which we practiced these skills on our coworkers. I also won’t tell you that every day we were faced with the possibility of having to put our acquired skills into action, and that I had friends who rescued people on a daily basis.

If I can memorize the steps for CPR, I think I can memorize a menu. If I can learn how to save a life, I think I can learn how to work a cash register. I don’t understand why more employers don’t want to hire x-lifeguards. At $8, we’re the closest thing you’re going to get to a doctor. Restaurants, especially, should take advantage of this. Oh no, someone’s choking! Thank God I hired an x-lifeguard who knows the Heimlich Maneuver. Oh no, someone cut their finger with a steak knife! Wait, here comes the waitress/lifeguard. She’ll know what to do!

Seriously, this just baffles me. Luckily, last summer I worked at a park because I had a connection with the hiring manager. So after teaching swimming lessons and working at the park, I’ve broken into the child care sector of part-time jobs. Is it better than lifeguarding? I don’t know, but it sure is a lot more entertaining. Maybe one day I can live the luxurious life of a waitress and shower in the tips I earn each night. Until then, I’ll continue working with poop and other bodily fluids.

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One thought on “Where’s the Love for Lifeguards?

  1. Yes, lifeguards have an enormous responsibility. And they always need to be alert and ready to jump into action at anytime. Lifeguards have my respect!

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