I was spending some time on Twitter recently when I saw a message that caught me off guard. It read, “Isn’t online CPR certification an oxymoron?” As the co-founder of a company that provides online CPR certification, I have become accustomed to defending our business and explaining why online training is a better way to learn. But the way this statement was phrased really resonated with me as a concise and witty explanation of how many people feel about our company. Why is it that the phrase “online CPR” appears to be in contradiction with itself — in fact, even humorous or absurd? I felt compelled to answer this question.
The answer is very simple and it explains why people so quickly dismiss online CPR as a viable training option. For anyone who has taken a classroom CPR course, the most memorable part of the course (whether positive or negative) was probably practicing CPR on the dummy. The pressure is on as each student is expected to recall the proper sequence of steps and breathe into the lifeless dummy as other classmates observe. And thus, the obvious problem — “How do I practice CPR on the computer? Do you want me to do chest compression on the mouse? How absurd!”
So, as it turns out, people don’t really have a problem with the CPR training itself being video-based and delivered online. This method of training is fine. In fact, self-paced video training you can pause and rewind is arguably better than an instructor you can’t rewind. The problem with learning CPR online (as classroom CPR courses have taught us) is that you can’t learn how to do CPR unless you practice it on a dummy. And hands-on practice is clearly impossible with an online course… Right?
No, not exactly. But don’t worry. I’m not about to suggest that practicing CPR on your mouse is a viable option either. A popular buzzword right now in education is blended learning, and I predict that you will continue to hear more about it as e-learning gains in popularity. With blended learning, there are two components to the training process — an online portion and an in-person (or hands-on) portion. This blended model works perfectly for CPR — watch the training videos and take the test online, then meet one-on-one with a qualified skill evaluator who will verify your CPR skills. Now you can learn CPR online without sacrificing the best part of the class — manikin practice!
Now that manikin practice can be blended with an online CPR course, I could safely end this article with the conclusion that online CPR certification is not necessarily an oxymoron (and that everyone should take a blended CPR course right now at ProCPR.org to prove it to themselves). However, let’s take this argument one step further and look at the initial assumption that began all this. Is it really true that all CPR classes must include manikin practice in order to be valid? I know that’s the way it has always been, but take a minute to really think about it.
Think about the EMT who performs CPR nearly every day and is being asked to perform CPR on a dummy every two years to prove that he knows how CPR works (incidentally, ask anyone who has ever performed CPR on a real person if it is anything like practicing on a dummy and you will find out just how unrealistic the practice really is). Think for a moment about the recent push to encourage hands-only CPR for lay rescuers. The motivation behind this whole movement is that not enough people are willing to get involved in an emergency cardiac arrest situation, often because they are afraid they might do something wrong. CPR has been made to seem complicated for so many years that people feel unqualified to try unless they have been certified recently, as if being certified is a special license to rescue. Something is clearly wrong with the way CPR is being taught.
Mandating manikin practice in our CPR classes is not going to solve this problem of getting involved. The fact is, CPR is not a complicated skill that is causing deaths because people are doing it incorrectly. People are dying because CPR is not being done at all. As the co-founder of a company that promotes easily accessible CPR training that reduces people’s fear of performing CPR, I don’t believe that online CPR certification is an oxymoron. I believe it is a better way to learn CPR that will result in more lives being saved, with or without the manikin practice.