Wednesday, May 27, 2009

How would you find a CPR course?

My last posts on online CPR courses hit a few nerves and there are a few good comments and a lot of interesting Twitter posts about Online CPR courses. When most people think of taking a course the first programs that come to mind are those offered by the American Heart Association or the American Red Cross. Both organizations offer good programs, but they are not the only programs out there. If you searched for CPR courses on the web you'd get thousands of hits back, some from companies you've never heard off. So how do you find a course?

There are basically three types of CPR courses: Classroom, online and self-directed.

Self-directed courses are programs you can purchase with equipment to learn and practice on your own. The American Heart Association's CPR Anytime and Infant CPR Anytime at are good examples of this. You purchase a kit which contains a DVD and a small inflatable mannequin. The program does not lead to certification or a CPR card, but is a good way to learn and practice the skills in the comfort of your own home.

Classroom courses are just that, in a classroom - or living room, workplace, etc. This is the traditional course with an instructor and equipment. The courses are usually video based and you watch and practice the skills along with the video and the instructors guidance. Most layperson courses no longer have a written test and the programs are more based on ability to practice the physical skills.

Online courses are taken from a website. Here is where it can get confusing. Any valid and legitimate online course will have a practical skills component. For the American Heart Association the online portion of a course is called "Part 1", you have to meet with an instructor for "Part 2" (and Part 3 in some cases) for the practical skills portion of the course. The instructor cannot issue you a card until you have completed the practical skills component.

Now I can only speak for American Heart Association courses as that is the organization that I am affiliated with. However you may want to question the legitimacy of an online CPR, BLS or ACLS course that does not require a practical skills component. I like to use the analogy that it's like driving a car. You can read the book and take the test, but does that mean you know how to drive the car? Would you want an ambulance crew or ED nurses working on you who had never practiced the skills, but were certified by taking just an online test? Probably not.

Also keep in mind that some of the 'bargain' prices you may see online may not necessarily be a bargain. Speaking only from my experience, the AHA does not set guidelines on what instructors may or may not charge for courses. Some instructors or sites teach entirely for free, others charge just to cover their basic expenses. While there are some out to make a profit, most of us look to charge what is usual & customary and to cover our out of pocket expenses to offer the course. There are many organizations that sponsor courses to keep the charges reasonable, so check around.

Where can you look locally? Start by calling your local hospital and ask if they offer classes. Many Fire Departments offer classes as well as many individual instructors like myself. Most of us are aligned with a local Training Center which may be the local hospital as well. Take a look on the web. If you come across a site that you don't recognize the name look at the course requirements. If it doesn't contain or require a practical skills portion with a local instructor then skip to the next hit on the list. Also make sure the organization has a local instructor in your area who can provide the necessary practical skills component. Not all Training Centers allow their instructors to perform these. You want to make sure that there is someone who is available to offer the practical skills portion before your register and pay for the online course. Also keep in mind that you most likely will have to pay the instructor for the practical skills portion separately from the online course.

If you're boggled by how to determine the legitimacy of an online course then look for a traditional classroom course which you know will contain the practical skills practice required for certification.

My goal is not to confuse anyone away from online courses, or to highlight one national organization. I am very pro-active in Health Education and want more people to learn CPR. But to learn in the correct environment for them from an organization that requires practical skills practice and testing to make sure the skills are taught correctly.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Be wary of some online BLS courses

Previously I've written about Online CPR courses. They're easy to take, convenient and affordable. My earlier post was about the Online American Heart Association Courses. There has been confusion about them in the past and some clinical providers didn't realize that the online portion was only Part 1 of the course. There is also a Part 2 (or Part 3) which involves a practical skills component. Overall if you follow the guidelines, complete all the required parts, and successfully pass any online or practical tests you will receive your certification.

However you have to be rather careful about which online courses you take. Recently I had a nursing educator unfortunately get scammed by an online site promising her a card, which she was able to print her own card at the end of the online course. However the large Red Flag for me was when she called me to schedule a practical exam and then told me she was able to print her own card, AHA programs do not allow participants to print their own cards from a website.

This particular site mimicked itself after both the AHA and ARC, promising "ILCOR Recommended" and "meets all ECC 2009 Guidelines". The name of the course was a mix of the AHA BLS for Healthcare Providers and the ARC CPR for the Professional Rescuer. For the reduced price of $19.95 she took an online course and was able to print a rather official looking card at the end. There was no practical skills component required. Having taken the AHA BLS for Healthcare Providers Online before she called me to schedule the skills test, not realizing she had been scammed. It was such an awkward phone situation to have to explain to her what had happened and that I could not just give her a practical test, she had to take the AHA written exam and then the practical in order for me to be able to have an AHA card issued to her. I felt crummy about it and wanted to emphasize that if only she had called me first.... but at this point the damage was done and we have since met, tested appropriately and she will soon receive her AHA card. In conversing about this situation with my Training Center Coordinator I also found that this has also happened with advanced level cardiac courses and other hospital staff being scammed by some online sites.

My caution to everyone is, if you need CPR certification - whether you are a Healthcare Provider or other care provider, and you are looking at online courses, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, make sure you are taking a course through a valid source and that THE ONLINE COURSE REQUIRES A PRACTICAL SKILLS COMPONENT WITH A LOCAL INSTRUCTOR. Yes, I meant to type that in all caps because I feel it's important and I'd be happy to shout it from the top of really tall hill. I can only speak on very familiar terms with American Heart Association Courses, but the BLS for Healthcare Providers Online and the Heartsaver AED Online programs both require a second session with an instructor to provide a practical skills session and testing. I have seen another online program not sponsored by the AHA and ARC that required meeting with that organizations instructor for the practical skills component.

If something seems like a bargain online there is a good chance that it isn't. In this recent situation the 'bargain' price of $19.95 was still more than the $17.50 the AHA charges for the BLS Online course. Other advanced level course may try to charge you more for a card that is basically worthless. Most clinical locations will not accept a card from a program that does not contain a practical skills component.

So when looking to take a class, or when you need a renewal look at online courses with a slightly cynical view. If it is not a nationally recognized organization like the American Heart Association or American Red Cross, check their credentials, check to see if your employer will accept the course and check to see if there is a practical skills component. If the answer to any of these queries is no, then don't sign up for the course and look for one that meets the certification requirements you and your employer need.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

NH Heartwalk fun!

This past Sunday the kids and I walked in the NH Heartwalk. This was our second year doing it and we had such a great time! All of the event organizers and volunteers were so positive, upbeat and genuinely friendly to all the participants. This was our first year walking the Heartwalk in Manchester, NH as this year the Seacoast Heartwalk merged with the Central NH Heartwalk.

My older daughters initially didn't want to walk this year, but became really excited when we they found out the walk would start and end at the Fisher Cats Stadium. We're not that familiar with Manchester so we looked the directions up on the web and headed off. For such a large city the stadium was very easy to find and we had no problem finding nearby parking.

It was slightly overcast and lightly raining, but registration and vendor tables were all set up in the grandstand out of the weather. We (I) took the Healthy Heart Pledge and visited the Go Red for Women table. The kids had their faces painted and played some kids games they had set up in a kid's activity area. There was even someone handing out small blow up beach balls with hearts on them.

The light mist cleared as the walk began and we had fun walking through the mill area. I did see the sign for the SEE Center which is a fun kids museum I've always wanted to take the kids to, so now I know how to find it!

The plan was to walk the 5 mile loop. However as we approached the 2nd water stop my oldest (the one who wanted us to speed walk at the start!) saw the large hill and pretty much announced she was ready to walk back. My second daughter who I expected to want to turn around pretty quickly wanted to keep going! But by this point the 2 little kids were really starting to fight with each other in the stroller so we did turn back. So we ended up walking roughly 2 miles.

Back at Heartwalk Central the kids enjoyed the Climbing Wall compliments of Vertical Ascent of Manchester and some great BBQ from The Meat House. We took some fun pictures of the stadium and the little kids got a chance to run around the much more vacant grandstand.

We had a lot of fun! The Fisher Cats Stadium was a great location to host the event! Easy to find, ample nearby parking, plenty of restrooms with baby changing stations (hey, with 4 kids this is a plus for me!) and there was an elevator to get us up and down the grandstand. The only suggestion I could make for next years Heartwalk is to place the grills in the larger open grandstand area and not next to the elevator as we couldn't navigate the narrower walkway to the elevator due to the food line and had to go bump, bump, bump down all the stairs. However lots of people offered to help! My son had fun walking down the stairs and my youngest got to enjoy the bumpy ride.

We're still taking donations if you'd like to help us wrap up our Heartwalk fundraising! We didn't meet our goal, but you can help us get a little closer!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Heat emergencies Part 2

In Part 1 I wrote about Heat Exhaustion. This post is about Heat Stroke, the more serious and potentially life threatening heat emergency.

Heat Stroke occurs when the body becomes so overheated that it begins to shut down. Your skin becomes hot, red and you lose the ability to sweat. As your body temperature rises you become confused, disorientated and can have a seizure. Eventually you will become unresponsive and permanent brain and tissue damage can result.

Heat Stroke can be fatal. This is a life threatening situation. If you suspect someone is suffering from Heat Stroke call 911. Begin cooling the person with cool water and move them to a cool environment or shade.

The best way to treat Heat Stroke or Heat Exhaustion is to prevent it. When we're outside in warm weather it is easy to get preoccupied with what we are doing and forget to take breaks or drink water. Keep an eye on the weather forecast. When the forecast is for hot weather or if the heat stress index is very high plan for frequent breaks in the shade or in air conditioning. Drink plenty of water and try to break large outdoor projects into smaller ones or see what can be rescheduled for a cooler day.

We've all heard the expression that an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure. This is very true in hot weather. Keeping an eye on yourself, your family and your co-workers and watching for the warning signs of overheating during the hot weather is one of the best ways to prevent a heat emergency.