We Know: How to Become CPR Certified

What is CPR?

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR, was invented by Dr. Peter Safar in the 1950s. It's a method of restoring breathing and heartbeat after a trauma such as electrical shock, drowning, heart attack, or simple shock, and involves external heart massage and blowing oxygen into the lungs until the person in distress can breathe on his or her own, or until that person is declared dead.

In most cases, once started, CPR should not be stopped until a medical professional declares the person dead. You should also be aware that some lawsuits have put people who use CPR, whether they are medical professionals or just good Samaritans, at some legal risk if CPR is performed incorrectly or even at all. Many states have passed Good Samaritan laws to prevent this sort of issue.

Where Can I Get Classes?

The American Red Cross is the best place to get classes in CPR, and they constantly hold such classes both at their local offices and in community centers such as hospitals, fire stations, and workplaces. You can also get these classes at nursing and health professional schools, through your fire department, and through the YMCA.

CPR is generally taught in about a half day and consists of the following:

  • Identifying an emergency and alerting others to call 911
  • Determining whether the person in distress is breathing and has a heartbeat
  • Steps to restore breathing and heartbeat
  • Periodic reassessment of the situation
  • CPR by yourself and with another person
  • CPR on an infant or small child
  • Lots of practice on a dummy

If you're interested, you can also learn CPR on animals. Contact your local Humane Society for information on these specialized classes. You should probably learn CPR for humans before you learn how to perform it on animals.

How Often Should I Take Refresher Courses?

CPR methods periodically change as new scientific discoveries refine how the brain survives oxygen loss and how well the heart does when experiencing external massage. Most recently, within the last two years the ratio of breaths to heart massage has changed significantly.

Because of these frequent changes and in order to stay in practice, you should renew your CPR certification every year in order to stay current. If you are required by your employer or by a licensing board to remain current, you must renew your certification annually.

Can I Teach Others?

You can learn how to instruct others in CPR, and you can even be paid for it if you have appropriate experience in training and in using CPR. You should contact your American Red Cross for information on classes in training CPR. Make certain you ask them about who you can and cannot train; you may be limited to training specific classes of people if you don't have extensive practical experience in using CPR yourself on real people.

What Else Can I Do To Prepare For Emergencies?

Besides CPR, the American Red Cross teaches a half-day and a full-day class on emergency first aid. Other classes offered by the Red Cross and by the YMCA include disaster training and lifesaving techniques. You can contact either organization for a complete list.

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