116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
If you’ve ever wanted to learn how to do CPR and — like so many of us — find yourself with extra time on your hands, now may be the perfect time to learn this lifesaving skill.
The big difference today is that you now can learn CPR — cardiopulmonary resuscitation — through an online class at home.
Many online training options are available, from the American Heart Association to the American Red Cross.
To become fully certified in CPR, you need to do in-person motor skills testing with an instructor.
But online training is sufficient to deal with most medical emergencies that the average person might encounter, experts say.
“Research has shown us that simple ‘hands-only CPR’ or ‘bystander CPR’ is just as effective in saving a life as if you go through the full certification course,” said Chrissy Meyer, communications director for the American Heart Association in Iowa.
Besides being able to take an online course from the comfort of your home, online training allows you to choose a day and time that works best for you. You also can break the training into smaller chunks of time, pausing if you need to and coming back later.
While in-person classes were halted during the first months of the pandemic, some in-person CPR classes have since resumed and are available at several locations in the Corridor.
Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids resumed in-person CPR classes in July. Kirkwood is one of many offering a hybrid CPR course, with the lecture portion of the course online and the skills testing done with mannequins and an instructor in the classroom.
“Many people don't know that we have classes meeting again,” said Clarissa Huilman, program developer for CPR and first aid courses at Kirkwood in Cedar Rapids. “Individuals reach out, worried that they are overdue on getting their certifications."
A wide variety of CPR options are available locally, from the more basic Heartsaver classes for lay persons to Basic Life Support classes for health care providers or individuals who need certification for their jobs.
Adult first aid courses also include CPR and AED (automated external defibrillator) training, while pediatric first aid courses include CPR training for all age groups.
Adapting to pandemic
While in-person CPR classes during a pandemic might make some people nervous, Kirkwood has COVID protocols in place following guidance from the American Heart Association. Small groups are taught in a large classroom, allowing students to spread out. Students are provided their own CPR mannequins so no one has to share.
At Kirkwood, students who register for a CPR class are given information on social distancing and are told not to come to class if they are sick. Kirkwood offers a refund or transfer to a different class if someone needs to miss a class for a COVID-related reason.
“Ultimately, we recognize two things,” Huilman said. “That it’s incredibly important for all of our health care providers in the area to have access to this training, as well as lay persons. But we also want them to feel safe in our environment and make sure that other students in the classroom feel safe as well.”
Deadlines delayed during COVID-19
While health care workers are required to renew their CPR certification every one to three years, the American Heart Association extended the deadlines for three to six months last March, knowing the strain workers were under responding to the pandemic.
“That was one of the things that we did as an organization … was to immediately say to those health care providers, you need to be taking care of patients and taking care of people affected by COVID, not worrying about whether or not your CPR certification is up-to-date," Meyer said.
Huilman said Kirkwood is now seeing an uptick in the need for certifications and renewals as those deadline extensions have sunset.
“Everyone’s kind of trying to get caught up with their requirements for what they were not able to do during the hardest months of the pandemic,” Huilman said. “They are kind of in a panic almost getting caught up from what's happened while they were busy saving lives. I really empathize with them."
In an emergency
The importance of learning CPR cannot be overstated. It is estimated that if a person witnesses a cardiac arrest, for every minute they don’t respond, a victim’s chance of survival goes down 10 percent.
While giving rescue breaths is part of CPR training, if you are nervous about doing so because of COVID or other medical reasons, hands-only CPR still is better than doing nothing.
Huilman said she frequently hears from students worried about performing CPR on a stranger who could have COVID. She reminds students that often the life they save may be that of a close friend or family member.
"The majority of medical emergencies that a lay person would have to respond to is a family member,” she said. “So in that circumstance, they may have already been around that individual unmasked and without social distance.”
Kirkwood instructors encourage people to do what they are comfortable with, whether it's hands-only compressions and/or giving rescue breaths.
A final note: good Samaritan laws protect lay people from any legal ramifications when they are responding in a medical emergency.
TO LEARN CPR
• American Heart Association − heart.org
• American Red Cross − redcross.org
• Kirkwood Community College Continuing Education − kirkwood.edu/ce