Teaching CPR

As a Nurse Educator, I’ve had the opportunity to teach many different people from a wide range of educational levels.  The spectrum runs from those who are masters-prepared to those with low literacy. One particular course that I have been teaching for the past 14 years is Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR).

Through the years I have felt well seasoned with CPR. No question was too difficult to answer — until just a few months ago.  It was then that I spoke with one of our volunteers who is also a dedicated RN. She wanted to take one of my Heart Saver CPR courses.  I was excited.  I love it when people express a desire to learn something as worthwhile as CPR.  After talking to her for a while, she asked if I would be willing to teach her “group” Heart Savers CPR.  The group was the Amputee Association of Hampton Roads.  I said, “WOW, uuhhh, well, SURE I can do that!”

I have taught the “physically and mentally challenged” before, but to teach CPR to a whole class of amputees?  I quickly scrambled for my two top CPR Instructors:  Sally Baust, Director of Therapeutic Recreation and Bob White, Director of Clinical Services, both employed at Riverside Rehabilitation Institute.  We discussed the possible modifications and needs of our participants. 

I searched the Internet, and was surprised to find nothing applicable to this unique population.  I called our volunteer back and asked her what type of amputations the participants had and if they would b working with or without their prosthetics, or from wheelchairs.  We discussed “adaptive” teaching.  On the floor, on a table, and even in our outpatient clinic where there is a low table designed for therapy.  It is with this table that people can transfer from a wheelchair to the table without being lifted or lowered.

Introductions were made, the course objectives and outline were reviewed, a video was shown, and they actively participated in the lecture.  And then came the question …, “How can we do this?  Do we get on the floor or use the table?”  A gentleman said, “Well, I can’t get down on the floor, I have an artificial knee and can’t bear too much weight on it.”  It appeared they were looking for the magic answer.  There wasn’t one!

I explained that we all needed to determine what was most comfortable for each participant and work from there.  Once the participants realized what their task specific limitations were, they adapted very well.  It appeared the only limitation was the potential of damaging the “artificial prosthesis.”

The first participant lay down next to the “victim” to complete the assessment then knelt on one knee and was able to perform the compressions and the abdominal thrusts.  Another participant with a leg prosthesis opted for the table.

There were two participants who asked to use the low table.  One was in a wheelchair and the other had two lower leg prostheses.  Once on the low table mat, they sat next to the “victim” and performed the assessment and compressions.  For the abdominal thrusts, the victim was straddled in the usual manner.

After the course, there was a mutual feeling of satisfaction.  We all learned how to do CPR a little differently that day.  They learned something important!  They wanted to learn how to save a life, no matter how they had to do it.  Adapt and overcome is a term that comes to mind.

The course was a true success.  The comfort level, the innovative adaptation of the participants, and the sincere eagerness of all involved was truly a great feeling.  It was the most memorable course I have ever taught in my career.  In fact, I’ll bet it was close to one of a kind!

My hat goes off to the students I never dreamed of being able to teach.

R. Scott Lauder, RN


Scott is currently the President of Initial Response, Inc. In addition to serving as Instructor Trainer for the American Heart Association, he is the Regional Instructor Trainer for ASHI (American Safety and Health Institute).

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