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Alisa Kigar, SCH Communications Specialist
February is National Heart Month and we all know when that very important muscle in our body stops beating, we are in big time trouble. Thelma Norton, RN, CEN, former Emergency Department Supervisor at Scotland County Hospital in Memphis and Alison Closser, RN, current Emergency Department Supervisor know all too well what the outcomes look like when someone has a cardiac event and CPR is not administered immediately. That’s why they are CPR instructors for the American Heart Association. “We teach people how to recognize when someone is in trouble, then how to handle it,” said Norton. “Knowing how to handle the situation and get started increases the chance of survival dramatically. Every minute that passes equals a 10% drop in the chance of bringing a person back. Once past the 5-minute mark, the recovery line drops dramatically. Doing CPR immediately can double or triple the chance of surviving an event.”
Recently Norton and Closser instructed a community CPR event called “Friends & Family.” The Friends & Family CPR program, through the American Heart Association (AHA), contains information on how to perform basic skills of CPR in adults, children and infants and how to help an adult or child who is choking. The classroom based video and instructor led CPR course offers families, friends and community members the opportunity to learn basic life support. Closser said, “We know 80% of out-of-hospital cardiac arrests happen at home. You are more likely to perform CPR on a loved one than on a stranger in a store. This is one of the many reasons why people need to be trained in CPR; likely it will be a family member that needs your help.” The AHA’s “Friends & Family” course is intended for those who do not need a course completion card for a job or other requirements. Friends & Family CPR is ideal for community groups, parents, grandparents, caregivers, schools and students, and anyone interested in learning how to save a life.
Administering CPR has become more streamlined over the years. In many cases, responders rely solely on chest compressions between 100 and 120 beats per minute and do not administer breaths. This is for obvious reasons since the Covid pandemic. This method of CPR was recommended by the American Heart Association. It is intended & recommended for bystanders and it is also recommended for situations when the rescuer is unable or unwilling to provide mouth-to-mouth breaths.
Norton and Closser are certified to teach American Heart Association classes through A.T. Still University AHA Training Center. They have both been instructors since 2010. Norton said, “We are trained to teach BLS (Basic Life Support) and ACLS (Advanced Cardiac Life Support) through ATSU. We are also able to teach Heartsaver First Aid and AED (Automated External Defibrillation) and we teach Friends & Family for the general public.” Both Norton and Closser really light up when they talk about teaching these courses. Closser said, “I got into teaching the classes because we had a need for instructors for our facility and it is always good to continue your education, and because Thelma made me!” She added, “I really enjoy the non-healthcare classes. We have done the Friends and Family classes for the public and for the MODOT workers and they seem to be very interested in learning and ask great questions and do not hold back with the jokes.”
Lisa Archer, BSN, RN, CHSE, AHA Training Center Coordinator MO-02637 at A.T. Still University said, “Thelma & Alison are an unstoppable duo when it comes to high quality training! They are always a joy to have in class when they are doing their own updates. They seek excellence and are always ahead of the game when keeping up with the current guidelines. The ATSU AHA Training Center is privileged to have them on our team!” ATSU’s American Heart Association Training Center works with 135 instructors from all over northeast Missouri. Last year, those instructors provided 637 classes, which resulted in training for 2,606 people. Archer reported from 2-16-21 through 2-15-23, Norton taught 86 classes and 284 students while Closser has taught 17 classes and 87 students (some of the classes the duo taught together, others they taught solo). According to Archer, every instructor has to be aligned with an AHA Training Center in order to certify students. AHA instructors have to perform at a high standard of excellence when they take their own courses to be instructors.
Dr. Meagan Weber, CEO, Scotland County Hospital said, “It did my heart good to see both young and old in the recent Friends & Family course that Thelma and Alison taught to our community. CPR training is important and has the potential to help save a life in emergency situations. Community members should know that even those without any medical knowledge can become well versed in it, and we encourage anyone interested to take a course when Thelma and Alison offer one.”