CPR, short for cardiopulmonary resuscitation, is a technique performed on those whose pulse and breathing have stopped. In these situations, the goal of this lifesaving technique is to compress the chest and heart so that blood continues to pump to the brain.
In cases where someone’s breathing and pulse have stopped, brain damage can develop if CPR isn’t initiated within two minutes. According to the American Heart Association, immediate CPR performed after cardiac arrest can double or triple a person’s chances of survival.
CPR classes are the shortest and most basic of all medical training. Courses cater to the general public, last between one and three hours, and for non-medical workers, fall into the category of adult or pediatric CPR.
CPR Class Options
The American Red Cross offers four main CPR classes, depending on your needs. These classes are frequently updated as methods and best practices continue to develop.
In the past, automated external defibrillator (AED) training was an add-on option for CPR training. However, increased access to AED machines now makes this training part of the core curriculum.
The main CPR classes offered by the American Red Cross and its providers are:
- Adult CPR/AED
- Adult First Aid/CPR/AED
- Adult and Pediatric CPR/AED
- Adult and Pediatric First Aid, CPR, AED
If you’re unsure which training is right for you, it’s recommended that you undergo the most comprehensive training: adult and pediatric first aid/CPR/AED.
What Do You Need to Know Before Taking a CPR Class?
Obtaining your certification puts you in a position to save lives. CPR is a crucial technique that often saves the lives of those experiencing cardiac arrest. However, preparing for your CPR class requires knowing what to expect.
Before signing up for a CPR class, you should ask the following questions:
- Is there a test?
- Is the class hands-on?
- Are the instructors certified to teach CPR?
- What equipment will you use?
Ideally, for certification purposes, your training will include a test of your knowledge. Additionally, CPR training should be hands-on if performed in a classroom setting. The best way to understand the proper speed and pressure of chest compressions is through actively performing CPR.
The equipment necessary in CPR training classes includes, first and foremost, standardized training mannequins. These training dummies are highly advanced, with a realistic feel and feedback technology that lets you know if your chest compressions and rescue breaths are effective.
Thanks to technological advances, these humanoid subjects are now equipped with devices in the chest to let you know if the compressions are paced and pressured correctly, resulting in mannequins that are now more lifelike than ever before.
Additionally, these training dummies have heads that tilt to ensure the airway is appropriately open for rescue breaths, and the chests have lung bags so you can see them rise and fall with your rescue breaths.
Lastly, all CPR training should have an AED machine available for students to use for hands-on experience.
The feedback and accuracy of your equipment in CPR training are instrumental to your knowledge and success, so ensure the training you choose invests in high-quality equipment.
What to Bring
Most CPR training only requires you to bring yourself, ideally in comfortable clothes and shoes. You may want to take a notebook and writing utensil to keep track of important information.
Know that as part of your training, you will need to kneel on the ground to perform CPR on your training mannequin. If you require the use of a cane, wheelchair, arm, or leg brace, bring those items with you to your training.
Critical Components of CPR
Standard CPR uses one of two methods: hands-only and conventional. In most classes intended for non-medical personnel, hands-only CPR is the preferred method.
Hands-only CPR is exactly what it sounds like — you’ll perform chest compressions without mouth-to-mouth breathing.
In conventional CPR, chest compressions are taught along with mouth-to-mouth breathing. Healthcare and emergency medical workers primarily perform this type.
At the end of your CPR training, you’ll undergo a test to complete your certification. Passing your test hinges on understanding and effectively performing the five critical components of CPR:
- Appropriate hand placement
- Consistent chest compressions
- Adequate speed and depth of chest compressions
- Proper position between compressions
- Necessary ventilation
But more than any written portion, the essential part of the certification test is accurately performing your CPR skills for your instructor.
Why Is CPR Training So Important?
Every year, over 350,000 people die of cardiac arrest in the United States. CPR can dramatically reduce those deaths. And those trained in CPR — even just everyday citizens — have the knowledge, confidence, and skills to stay calm and react quickly in a medical emergency to save the life of a person in need.