Online CPR certification

Dec. 1, 2004
What? Learn CPR at home? It's true! You can learn how to save a life while online. More than 450,000 sudden cardiac arrests occur every year. Fortunately, we have not experienced a critical emergency in my dental office, but it only takes one time for your CPR skills to come in handy.

by Victoria DaCosta

What? Learn CPR at home? It's true! You can learn how to save a life while online. More than 450,000 sudden cardiac arrests occur every year. Fortunately, we have not experienced a critical emergency in my dental office, but it only takes one time for your CPR skills to come in handy.

It was not too long ago that one of my patients mentioned that I could take my renewal CPR certification online. Wow, I thought. How many times has my CPR certification expired and I have not had the time to renew it? Even knowing where to find CPR certification classes is a mystery, unless our whole office is involved and someone comes in to train us.

How do you count breaths? How do you pump the heart while using a computer keyboard? The amount of training we can accomplish over the Internet has become invaluable. While reviewing companies who have an established presence in certifying professionals online for CPR, I became very impressed with the amount of structured and educational learning available.

The Internet classroom is called "virtual learning." I was amazed at the amount of virtual learning one can do. We have all attended those CPR courses with the mannequin on the floor. And we have all sacrificed time out of a busy schedule to attend. For me, the idea of learning at home was very appealing. But I was not sure if it was legitimate. As a board member of our local dental hygiene association, I was asked to research CPR certification classes for our members. I contacted a local fire department and learned how pleased they were with the American Heart Association's online course. The firemen mentioned that the learning was far more involved than they would have time to teach due to their demanding schedules.

"Then how do we practice the breathing part of training?" I asked. The fireman said, "You call us after you've completed the online course and schedule a mini hands-on workshop to review your skills. We'll also sign you off on your paper work."

That's it? I thought I could do that. To date, I have not taken the CPR course online. I've only gone through a practice run with the materials. But it is very interesting, and I look forward to re-certifying every year with this method! Before one starts there are a few things to look for in choosing the right CPR certification online. Using the American Heart Association online CPR certification is a reliable route. After some research, though, I discovered other companies that offer additional convenient services for the busy health care professional.

So I asked my patient, Jane Harvey, a representative from "First Aid For All" (FAFA), some questions about her project.

Must a person blow into a plastic mannequin to learn CPR?

She replied, "Practicing on a plastic mannequin is only one way to learn CPR, and other ways do not involve breathing into a piece of plastic. You can practice on someone you are comfortable with, or you may train in a virtual simulation. FAFA provides a V-mani(c), a virtual mannequin system. The procedures for conducting CPR have evolved through practice and scientific research over the last 25 years."

When learning CPR, what is important?

She answered, "All training programs provide information on how to act. This includes how many compressions or breaths you should perform in what amount of time, etc. All training programs provide some way to practice what you have learned. Performing CPR is a practical skill. You must interpret what you have to do and then you must perform appropriate actions."

What is the difference between a health-care professional and layman's CPR course?

Harvey said, "FAFA Lay Rescuer CPR is designed for the person who has no training in health care. The program teaches the basics of how to respond in an emergency situation. It also includes how to recognize life-threatening emergencies such as stroke and heart attack, when and how to call 911, and how to recognize and treat choking victims with the Heimlich Maneuver.

"FAFA Health Care Professional CPR is for those who have taken a health-care training course. This includes paramedics, EMTs, dentists, dental hygienists, nurses, physicians, chiropractors, and others. Since they have a better foundation, and are in regular contact with patients, regulations require that they receive more in-depth training. They also learn more background on why actions are performed in a particular way."

What are key features you have that other CPR online courses do not?

Harvey replied, "In traditional training programs you never really know who will teach the course, how well it will be taught, or whether all of the content has been taught and tested. FAFA is created by experts, and the training programs are designed by professional educators, medical specialists and experts in multimedia design, therefore every student receives a professional course delivered to the highest standards and each course follows national and international guidelines.

"FAFA was the first company to introduce a fully virtual training environment for CPR and AED training. They are still the only company in the United States that is able to offer a CPR training course and test on CD-ROM. When you complete the test, you immediately qualify for your certificate. The hands-on component is included on the CD-ROM."

What are some advantages of online multimedia CPR training that you see for practitioners?

She said, "FAFA is a CD-ROM-based program. Online Internet-only programs cannot, because of bandwidth limitations, offer the complex interactivity necessary for a high quality FAFA training. FAFA course presentation is always at the highest standard. You do not have someone unqualified and perhaps with less experience than you teaching the course. FAFA is always professional and each required area is taught and tested."

Is it a truly convenient way to keep CPR skills up to date?

Harvey answered, "FAFA programs allow you to learn at your own pace. What is important is that the student masters the material, not that they spend a set amount of time in the process. For some that will take a short time, and for others longer.

"Some people are embarrassed or shy in front of a group. They are more comfortable when they can learn and practice without the group looking on. It is great for dental practices that are not near major urban centers, or where it is difficult to schedule traditional training classes.

"FAFA reduces liability in the case of a legal suit as we can demonstrate on paper what was taught, what the individual did, what they scored on the test and when their certificate was valid."

What are some disadvantages in online CPR?

She said, "Learning by computer is not for everyone. Some people feel more comfortable when they are face-to-face with a real person.

"Some people like to ask questions during a presentation. FAFA provides a special email address with access to our medical people if anyone has a question."

What are key benefits for the dental hygienist that would help make them better certified?

Harvey said, "FAFA training saves hygienists time and money because they can complete it in down time at the office, on a train or plane, at an airport, anywhere they have access to a computer. Generally they will be able to complete the course and receive their certificate in little more than the time it takes to travel to and from a traditional course.

"FAFA does the paper work at no extra charge. It maintains an accurate record of what was studied and how you did on the test so that if there is an incident we can support you with the proof that everything was done correctly. An added benefit is that we will send a reminder for you to renew your skills in 11 months. In a large office, FAFA can provide a key person with an automatic check on who is up to date and who needs to renew.

"FAFA is the best solution for those who have ignored renewal until the last minute. The instant you finish the test and submit the results via the Internet, you receive a printable interim certificate. The official certificate will come through the mail.

"FAFA provides a true multimedia, rather than a purely online, solution to CPR training. There is an online component, but the training program and testing is done from the CD-ROM. The CD-ROM, rather than delivery through a Web-based solution, is required to achieve complex interactive activities for the learner and to accurately measure timing when a student is performing breathing and compression practice."

What are some helpful user tips you have in your program?

She replied, "Every key skill that is taught in FAFA contains a practical activity because skills require practice. Complex activities such as performing rescue breaths or doing CPR have a special show-me button where the computer demonstrates the correct procedure and timing. Automatic tracking and reminders are provided at no extra cost. If you make an error while doing the test, you can click on a button to take you to that area to review the appropriate skills. There is a site map to view an outline of all content and an activity map that allows you to go directly to the skill that needs to be practiced."

Victoria DaCosta, RDH, BS, is founder and president of Hy-Tech Solutions. A practicing dental hygienist for 18 years, DaCosta is a speaker, author, consultant, and an expert in the design of medical/dental software. She is also on the new technologies committee for the California Dental Hygienists' Association. DaCosta can be contacted at