Don’t let social distancing keep you from learning lifesaving skills

February 21-22, 2018. Washington, DC CPR Classroom Stock Video and Photography Shoot 2018 Photos by Dennis Drenner/American Red Cross

By Gordon Williams

If you want to put Covid-19 downtime to productive use, consider a Red Cross class teaching skills and techniques that could save lives long after the pandemic has passed.

With medical resources under enormous strain, training in how to respond in an emergency is arguably more important than ever. And the most recent word from the American Red Cross is that, “Where possible, we will continue to teach training courses where it is safe to do so.”

The range of Red Cross lifesaving courses is enormous.

First, there are the Red Cross basics–classes in first aid, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) around AED (learning how to use a defibrillator). All three course areas offer the potential of saving lives in a medical emergency. Best of all, because of the essential community service they provide, most remain available.

Beyond these courses, the Red Cross also offers training in such skills as babysitting basics, advanced childcare training, cat and dog first aid, first aid for opioid overdose, and basic life support.

A recent Red Cross advisory says that, “All training must conform to social distancing protocols that provide at least six feet of separation between students and between students and instructors.” Beyond that, classes will be kept small, there will be no physical contact in teaching such skills as choking prevention and bandaging, gloves will be worn when practicing skills and there will be a 1-to-1 ratio of students to practice manikins in teaching all skills.

In addition, the Red Cross says that all materials and surfaces will be sanitized before each classroom setting.  Finally, the Red Cross assures students that “Any training that cannot meet all these requirements will be postponed or cancelled.”

Red Cross courses are available in three formats. Potential students are encouraged to select the course format that works best for them:

In Person: Classes are taught at a local Red Cross office or at some other nearby facility. Teaching is in a traditional classroom setting with trained and experienced teachers. Instruction is hands-on and the course can lead to certification in one of the life-saving skills if you need it for your job. Course times are set, and you start the next time a class is scheduled.

Online: You stay home, and the course material comes to you via your computer. You work at your own pace–taking as long as two years to complete the lessons– and you can start the course as soon as you sign up. Online learning stresses convenience and safety.  The downside is that online courses don’t provide face-to-face contact with a certified instructor.  You won’t be able to demonstrate the skill proficiency needed to get certification. 

Blended: You go through the bulk of the course online and then meet face-to-face with an instructor to test your skills.  You learn at your own pace but are then able to gain certification.

There is a work-around if you need certification from a course but can only take it on line.  After taking the blended version of the course, you would receive provisional certification. You would then have 90 days in which to demonstrate your skills in order to receive full certification

Find a course and register at www.redcross.org/take-a-class. That site will let you see all the courses available in your area, with dates, times and locations and the cost of each course (usually under $100 per class).

Classes in the basic lifesaving skills typically combine learning in first aid, CPR and AED. Some courses are aimed at treating adults, but many offer training on how to treat both adults and children. The site will show which are classroom sessions, which are online, and which are blended. The site will also show which courses offer provisional certification.

What can Red Cross training do for you? Watch the videos of these local heroes (Mya Osborn, Jim Shipley and Nyabuony “Nya” Palek) or take the advice of volunteer Michael Steed of Bellevue. “I was sitting at my airport gate wearing a Red Cross logo shirt,” he says. “Suddenly a man started choking on his food, He was coughing and trying to clear his own airway, it was time to put my training into action.”

“As a Red Cross volunteer for five years,” Michael says, “I recommend that Red Crossers take a CPR class and a First Aid class. For CPR, I also recommend a refresher class every few years. You never know when these skills will be necessary.”

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