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Red Cross CPR Class is a Joke

July 28, 2007



Earlier in the week, my wife and I took a short child and infant CPR class offered by the Red Cross here in the bay area. In a nutshell: it was horrible. I’ve taken a 2 day long first aid and adult CPR class maybe 10 years ago. The instructor was a 20 year paramedic veteran, and knew what you’re really supposed to do, not the BS the Red Cross was pushing.

Now I realize there’s only so much you can learn in 4 hours, but what really irritates me is that people may actually think they’re prepared after that lame class. Maybe 1/4 of the students were expecting or new parents, the rest were day care workers, nannies, summer camp workers, etc. (It seems taking a child CPR course once a year is required.) So there are parents out there sending their kids places and thinking “oh, they’re professionally trained- we’re all set.” At the end of the class, rather than actually ensuring people knew what to do, the “teacher” just handed out the “You’re Certified!” wallet cards.

I don’t even recall all the times I was mentally shaking my head at what was being taught- and a few times I tried to challenge it- but it didn’t seem the other students really cared, so I stopped interrupting before I turned into “that guy” in every class. Here’s a short list of the things that come to the top of my head:

  • Breathing: the videos and instructions called for placing a plastic CPR barrier over the victim to protect them and yourself from exchanging anything nasty. At the end of the class, everyone got a keychain version of one. (I’ll upload a pic to Flickr if we didn’t already throw them out.) Whats wrong with these things? They’ll probably add at least 30 seconds from the time you discover a person needs CPR and the time you’ll be providing it. And, umm, the person is DYING, do you really care about catching an illness you can pass mouth-to-mouth at this time?! Whats worse is its really difficult to form a good seal over the mouth with one of these cheapo things, so you might not be providing as much oxygen to the victim as you think.
  • Choking: the instructions for infants on up was to attempt to dislodge whats blocking the airway via either the Heimlich (or whatever its caled these days) or blows to the back. No mention of how much force to use, or increasing the force should it fail a certain amount of times. You just keep doing it until the person loses consciousness and keep trying while they’re on the ground. Again, . Stop pussy-footing around people, break a friggin rib or two and save that person!
  • Taking Control: if there’s one thing I took away from my training 10 years ago, it was that people freak out in an emergency situation and everyone ends up standing around doing nothing, expecting someone else will. I’ve seen this countless times with auto accidents, injuries, you name it. Its like people are watching it on TV. The Red Cross class barely covered this, and certainly didn’t emphasize it. IMO, the most important thing to do when you arrive at the scene is to take control. Assess the situation, and if you’re not alone- give orders to people. “You, call 911!” “You, get me some towels!” “You, make sure to meet the ambulance out front and bring them to us!” You think random people are just gonna do it if you say “can someone please help?” Take control!

Ah well- I could go on, but the point of this whole rant is to call BS on the Red Cross, and hopefully open the eyes of some would-be students. If you want the real stuff, go seek out an instructor who’s spent time in the field, a paramedic, fireman, or the like. The Red Cross seems to be in CYA mode to avoid lawsuits later…

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From → Misc

11 Comments
  1. john permalink

    When I took a CPRclass as part of my EMT cirtification, we were told a few things:

    1) If you dont break ribs, you are not pushing hard enough

    2) The mask is for the squeamish. The idea is that folks would provide aid that would otherwise not if they had the mask.

    3) Breathing is overrated, focus on the compressions. The best rescue breaths in the world are useless if there is no blood circulating.

    The Red Cross class is basically 30 minutes of information crammed packed into a 4 hour course. Lets face it, why bother requiring a 30 minute course. Saying you attended a 4-8 hour course? why, that must be valuable.

  2. Mrs. R. permalink

    In fairness to the red cross, there was some worthwhile information presented and the take-away materials with step-by-step instructions are valuable. And they state upfront, at a minimum, the red cross hopes you at least are motivated enough by the end of the class to dial 911 in the event of an emergency (setting the bar low, true, but apparently a lot of people don’t even bother doing that). In spite of the sloppy, pseudo-unprofessional format (and volunteer instructor), I’d rather have my child in the care of someone who has taken this class, than one who had no training at all. At a minimum, one can learn that an infant’s pulse is checked in a different location than an adult’s or child’s or that the signs of an infant choking are different from those that are exhibited by children/adults. For $45, I don’t think one can expect the caliber of training one would need to really be an expert in cpr.

  3. Tamy permalink

    One thing I’d like to mention about Red Cross training, at least in my area, is that "SAFETY FIRST" is highly stressed. There is a reason that people in the medical field use masks and gloves. As someone with a low immune system. . .yes, I would be concerned about contracting an illness from someone, even if it’s someone who’s life I was trying to save. Something that may only affect you mildly, if at all, could severely affect me. . .and being a single mom, I have to think of my son when I make decisions that could affect him. I am truly sorry that you were so disappointed in your Red Cross training experience, but please don’t imply that everyone else will have the same experience should they take Red Cross training. We have had children and adults in our area who have saved lives because of their Red Cross training. If you have a problem with the training or instructors in your local Chapter, I would start with discussing it with the Health and Safety Services Director there. If you are not satisfied with the results of that discussion, go above their heads.

  4. Jennifer permalink

    I have to ask you…Did you report this instructor to the Red Cross if you truly feel that you got nothing from the class? I just took a CPR course through the Red Cross and found my instructor to be excellent and very infomative. The way one instructor teaches or doesn’t teach shouldn’t be held against an entire organization unless they are aware that his technique is invaluable. With all due respect, You commented that you were not taught/told to take charge in an emergency situation…Did you cinsider taking charge and just speaking what was on your mind. If you act as toehrs and just figure that someone else will do it or should know you acting exactly as those people you decribed in your wiritng. I have to say I had a great instructor who walked us through every step and made sure to remind us that people react different in emergency situations and we should be aware and prepared to act instead of react. I’m sory you had a bad experience with this instructor and hope that someone takes charge abd reports to the Red Cross. If we don’t take charge and report these bad instructors…we are the ones that will suffer in case an emergency happens and we have these people "teaching" the "wrong" way to save lives.

  5. August permalink

    I too am very sorry about your poor experience with the Red Cross Instructor, but as some of the other’s mentioned, I hope you do not hold that against the entire organization. I am a community educator and a Red Cross Certified Instructor, I certify our entire Community Center staff during the regular school year and additional summer staff, I have had people (even my own boss) take my class twice, because I want to make sure that I’m certifying people who will be able to act correctly when and if the need occurs.
    As a citizen you have a duty to report neglegent instructors and I hope that you consider doing so…after all, it may be your life one day that needs saving.

  6. I am a certified American Red Cross instructor. I am also a day care provider (which is why I became an instructor in the first place.)
    One of the reasons why the Red Cross stresses safety for it’s responders is simply:
    75 – 80% of CPR is performed on relatives or friends. One reason why is that people are afraid of catching something from someone they don’t know. Although at this time there are no documented cases of someone catching something – the possibility is very real. By teaching students to use the same protection that EMT professionals use, we give them the confidence to jump into an emergency situation and hopefully save a life.
    (The other reasons are: people are afraid of hurting the person, they might die or they might get sued)
    My partner and I also give CPR classes for other daycares and businesses. We found that if we focus on the hands-on training (skipping some videos, etc.) that the information is much better retained. We make it fun as well as educational – but we make sure they know what they are doing. There have been several times where I have stopped someone in the middle of compressions to change the location of their hands.
    I also tell them that if they have an emergency 6 months from now, they may not remember everything but since they know where to place their hands – they can call 911 and have the responder talk them through it.
    Bottom line, something is better than nothing. Can’t do the breaths because you have asthma? Forget and do 32 compressions and 3 breaths or 28 compressions? It is not the end of the world. Remember, if you do nothing, the person dies. If you do something they might have a chance.
    Thanks for letting me rant!

  7. Michelle permalink

    I just finished this same class yesterday, and I felt the same way. Ugh! They could have taught me so much more in that length of time! At one point, the instructor said that we were pretty much finished, but we needed to remain in class to reach a certain number of hours, so we BSd for the next 1-2 hours to fill the time. We told a lot of jokes and stories about accidents that students had witnessed, just trying to fill the time. Oh, and on the joke thing, that was the theme of the entire class – the teacher trying to get a laugh the whole time. 😦 And, she was not funny. 😦 However, that being said, I "did" learn something, so it was not a complete waste, but my expectation was SO MUCH higher and I thought I’d learn so much more. I do feel "better" prepared, but I think I’ll retake the class with another agency to be truly prepared!

  8. Thanks for letting me rant

  9. I tend to augment the classes I teach with alot of real world scenarios and stories to illustrate points. I’ve taught a few classes that went over 2 hours, mostly due to number of students, but I’ve never hit anywhere near the 4 hour mark.
    CPR is all about controlling an out of control situation.
    CPR Class is all about singing "Another one bites the dust".
    Sorry to hear you had such a rough experience with this last course, but I’m glad to hear that the take away materials were informative

  10. Justin permalink

    The mask is for the squemish? I somehow don’t think you got through your EMT cert by telling your instructor that BSI is for the squemish. Also, it is important to remember that yes, the other person is dying and you need to do everything you can to save them, however, exposing yourself to the possibility of a terminal disease to ATTEMPT to save them. I’m not saying that if you dont have a mask, dont do it anyway. I’m just pointing out that if you are certified you probably have a rescue mask or plastic barrier with you most of time, use it.

  11. I actually like the CPR class that red cross gives but I do agree that they need to update their methods.

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