March 1, 2019: The Instructors Only section of the NSS-CDS website contains over a dozen different PDF forms. Two of these, the waiver and medical history, are ones that should need no introduction. They are typical of what you would use for any scuba course.
There are three additional forms, however, that are unique to the CDS. These are ones with which every NSS-CDS Instructor must be familiar. Here is what you need to know.
Student Enrollment and Training Completion Form
At one time, this form’s ancestor was a three-part, carbonless document. It provided the only way you could register students with the NSS-CDS. You would fill out the form by hand, mail the top copy to the Section, give the middle copy to your student and keep the bottom copy for yourself. Your student would then have to wait several weeks for his or her card to show up. It was so 20th Century.
Of course, today we do everything online. It’s faster, more convenient and saves paper. It’s the only way every NSS-CDS Instructor should handle student registrations. Still, the modern incarnation of this venerable document can serve a number of valuable functions.
- To start, it’s a place to collect important personal and emergency contact information. Prior to training, have students open this form in Adobe Acrobat and fill out the top three sections. This is not only more legible, but it also makes the student responsible for any typos. Once students have done so, have them email the form back to you.
- The second thing this form does is document the fact students have the necessary training and experience to enroll in a particular NSS-CDS course.
- Finally, there are statements you and your student should sign upon completion of training. The student statement is especially important because in it students agree to recognize and stay within the limits of their current training, and well as to follow important safety procedures.
By the way, you should make sure a copy of the completed form comes with you to dive sites. This is because it contains both student emergency contact and medical insurance information.
Also, if you copy student contact information from this form and paste it directly into the online registration page, it will absolve you of responsibility for typos students made when filling out the form.
Apprentice Cave Diver Statement of Understanding
As you learned by completing the 2020 NSS-CDS Instructor Update, qualified instructors can use this form to extend students’ Limits of Training beyond those normally associated with the Apprentice Cave Diver course. Doing so requires you to make additional dives with students and meet other requirements. When you do, you use this form to document this fact.
However, this form isn’t just for students who qualify for extended Apprentice Cave Diver limits. You should have every Apprentice Cave Diver students sign this form when they complete this course. Why? Because, by doing so, they acknowledge what their personal limits are and agree to remain within them.
By the way, this is not only a form you and your students can complete and sign in Acrobat, but it’s also one you must do this way. This is because, once an Acrobat digital signature is applied, students cannot go back and check off additional boxes.
Many NSS-CDS Instructors issue only this document and not a plastic card. Why? Doing so helps underscore the fact the Apprentice rating is not intended to be permanent. It’s like a learner’s permit that allows students to gain additional experience before completing the requirements for full Cave Diver training.
From what these instructors tell us, neither Florida State Parks nor places like Ginnie Springs have any problem accepting the Statement of Understanding form in lieu of a plastic card.
The NSS-CDS Studen Record form is designed to document the fact students have made all the dives and mastered all the in-water skills required for either the Apprentice Cave Diver or full Cave Diver courses. It meets all the prevailing standards of practice for student record keeping used by organizations such as TDI and PADI.
There is, unfortunately, some degree of misunderstanding among instructors regarding what constitutes adequate record keeping. For any given skill, you need only document:
- What that skill was.
- The date students demonstrated adequate mastery of the skill.
- The name of the instructor who witnessed this.
Attempts to document any more than this, no matter how well-intentioned, are not only unnecessary, they can easily play into the hands of plaintiffs’ attorneys. This is an important topic and one we will explore further in a future article.
For now, just be aware the NSS-CDS Student Record provides the best means of documenting student performance. It’s evidence that will be hard to use against you in a court of law.
Meeting the mandate
As we mentioned in an earlier article, the NSS-CDS’s mandate includes not only safety and education but conservation as well. This includes both cave conservation and conservation of all our natural resources.
This is why we now handle tasks such as student registration and instructor renewals entirely online. It’s also why all of our forms and applications are interactive Adobe Acrobat PDFs. Doing so means you can train NSS-CDS students and instructors at any level without printing out a single sheet of paper.
If you are still relying on paper forms for any aspect of CDS training, take the time to read this article. The environment will thank you.