100-120 compressions per minute

Vista Grande students learn CPR, now will teach it

By Doug Cantwell dcantwell@taosnews.com
Posted 11/21/19

When Ron Striegel took his health science students at Vista Grande Charter High School over to Holy Cross Medical Center last week (Nov. 15) to learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation, he had bigger plans in mind.

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100-120 compressions per minute

Vista Grande students learn CPR, now will teach it

Posted

When Ron Striegel took his health science students at Vista Grande Charter High School over to Holy Cross Medical Center last week (Nov. 15) to learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation, he had bigger plans in mind.

These eight students, he said, will now go back and each train another bunch of students, staff and teachers - until everyone at the school knows how to administer CPR. Striegel was quick to credit Corbett Wicks, Vista Grande's internship and mentorship coordinator, with the original idea. "She's a brilliant educator," he said.

Students spent half of the three-hour class using inflatable mannequins to learn how to restart a heart that's stopped beating by pressing hard and fast on the center of the patient's chest at a rate of 100 to 120 times a minute. The training also included how to use an automated external defibrillator, or AED, to restore normal rhythm to a heart that's beating erratically and how to respond to someone who's choking.

David Elliot, education and emergency response coordinator at Holy Cross, taught the class in a humorous, up-tempo way that kept students engaged - and often laughing. During the latter half of the class, when he taught them how to teach, he consciously walked his talk.

"Using the AED - this is the part that stresses everyone out, because it looks kind of complicated," Elliot told the class. "An AED just analyzes whether a heart is beating irregularly, and if it is, it shocks it back into a normal rhythm, hopefully.

"What an AED does not do," he continued, "is take a heart that's stopped and start it again. You're doing that by delivering good CPR. You're being that person's heart when you're pushing on their chest."

Elliot often threw the ball back into the students' court, taking the role of a bewildered attendee asking blunt questions. "But how does an AED work? How does it analyze?"

Elliot stressed how important it is to keep it simple - even when using the AED in combination with CPR. "You put a pad here and a pad there, and it sends an electrical signal across the heart to see what it's doing," Elliot said. "And that's why we're not touching the patient at that point. Because if I'm pushing on the patient's chest while the AED's analyzing, it's going to see me being their heart - right?"

It's important, he added, to have someone else take over on CPR after you've done 200 compressions. "How many minutes is that?" Elliot asked. Students hesitated on this one, but someone finally hazarded, "Two minutes?"

"Right," said Elliot, "and why two minutes? Because the AED will analyze every two minutes, which means it's deciding whether the time's right to deliver a shock. It's also a good time to take a breather if you've got someone there to back you up. CPR is hard work."

Keep it in context

Elliot was careful to pose relevant scenarios to keep his audience engaged. "If I'm on the basketball court, and my feet go out from under me and I land flat on the ground - wham! - it can upset the electricity of my heart. It happens to kids playing basketball all the time."

"If you use an AED on that patient after you've been keeping them alive with good CPR," he said, "they can almost get up and walk off the basketball court. Because they don't have a heart defect or heart disease. They just upset the electricity of their heart. Once you fix that, they might be able to just go back to what they were doing, more or less.

"The same thing with baseball," Elliot said. "If you hit a line drive and hit someone square in the chest with a baseball, that might upset their heart's electricity. If someone's not breathing very well or has a high fever, that can also upset the electricity in their heart."

Chokers head for the restroom

When the discussion turned to choking, Elliot posed another scenario his students could relate to. "Something you probably know about high school students," he said. "If they're at a party or restaurant, and something happens that's embarrassing, something with their body, where are they going to go?"

Someone suggested the restroom. "Exactly!" said Elliot. "So you have to go and knock on the door, ask how they're doing. If they say nothing, you might have a problem on your hands. You might have to go in and do CPR on them. If you can do that and perform abdominal thrusts to clear their breathing passage, you just might save their life."

Two critical takeaways

Elliot impressed upon his students that the first and last thing out of their mouth, as instructors, has to be the core of what they want students to learn. "You can save someone's life by pressing hard and fast on the center of their chest 100 to 120 times a minute," he said. "You're going to say that one sentence a million times during the class."

The last thing they say as an instructor might be the only thing some students remember from the entire class. "They might totally forget what an AED is or how to respond to choking," said Elliot. "But if they walk away remembering that one sentence - that's enough."

Elliot had another critical takeaway. "We have to teach to all the different types of learners in the room. You've got to bring everybody in," he stressed. "So first we're going to explain how to do something. Then we're going to show them how to do it. After that, we let them try it."

But the best way to get people to learn something, he added, is to get them talking to each other. "As soon as you have one student teaching the material to another student, and get them working together on something, it goes quick."

As for keeping a proper attitude, he urged the future instructors to focus on what students did right. "It doesn't matter if they did it right or not," he said. "You as the instructor are going to focus on the positive and demonstrate the standard you want them to meet. Telling them what they did wrong only makes them feel bad about themselves."

By the same token, they shouldn't expect perfection from themselves on their first outing. According to Elliot, 95 percent of how they teach the class is going to happen on the second or third time you teach it.

"The first time, it's going to be a bit of a circus," he said. "You'll do the best you can, people are going to learn, it's going to be fine - and you're going to say that one sentence a million times. But by the second or third time, you'll know what's in your book, you'll know how to deal with the mannequins and other equipment - you'll know how to do it."

So how do the new trainers feel about it - are they confident in their newly acquired skills? "I feel a little bit confident," said junior Tonalli Martinez-Parker with a laugh. "I know there are going to be some mess-ups, but it will be fun either way."

Are they glad they took the class? "Yes, if something ever happens, I want to be able to help that person," said junior Michael Maul. "You know, like if it's a family member, I don't want to just stand there not knowing what to do."

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