Adult First Aid/CPR Training

evought's picture

What certification standard must I follow?

There are two major standards for First Aid and CPR certification: the American Heart Association (AHA) and the American Red Cross (ARC). The ARC uses the AHA guidelines to develop its training but presents the material a bit differently, including information on initial response to an emergency and good samaritan laws which is sometimes not offered by AHA instructors. One of the big differences is that AHA instructors offer CPR certification for two years while ARC instructors only certify for one year. The American Red Cross believes that people who do not use CPR on a regular basis (the case with most employees and lay volunteers) do not retain the knowledge adequately without one-year recertification. This author initially certified with the American Red Cross and has valued that training.

The LCS Auxiliary currently allows certification to either standard. Our volunteers are also required to receive CERT training which covers initial incident response, as does the First Responder training volunteers can take as an elective. Having the material covered again in an ARC class is not a bad thing and reviewing CPR information and techniques more frequently than every two years is also good (you should be voluntarily reviewing your course materials more often than once a year) , but our volunteers are required and encouraged to train in many skills, and requiring frequent recertification in one skill may come at the cost of less attention paid to another important skill. ARC classes are excellent but often harder to schedule. Make your own choice and constantly seek opportunities to keep your skills sharp.

How long is certification good for?

First Aid training certificates are good for three years. AHA CPR certificates are good for two years and ARC certificates for one year. You may take recertification or requalifying courses before your certificate expires; these courses are usually shorter, faster paced, and less expensive than the initial CPR course.

Where can I get classes?

This is an incomplete list of training in the area we know about. We will try to keep volunteers informed about upcoming classes, adding them to the site calendar. We can also schedule group training when there are enough people who need it. The Greater Ozarks Chapter of the American Red Cross will do local group courses for 15-20 people at a time.

  • The Greater Ozarks Chapter of the American Red Cross does regular Adult First Aid/CPR and recert classes in Springfield. The GO-ARC also offers a Wilderness First Aid (Adult First Aid prerequisite) once or more a year, often in the fall (but see this discussion from the Wilderness Medicine Training Center).
  • The Barry/Lawrence Ambulance District offers area classes in First Aid, CPR, and First Responder.
  • There are a growing number of services offering online certification. The pros and cons of this are discussed separately. You will typically be able to print a wallet card immediately and will be mailed a signed certificate.
    • International CPR Institute
    • American CPR Care Association
    • American Health Care Academy NOTE: In their demo course, the instructor in the Adult CPR video is not performing rescue breaths correctly (she is not pinching the nose) and they only show what is going on from one angle, so it may not be easy to see correct hand-placement, arm position for chest compressions. In the AED video, the AED is set up where the victim's legs would be. If this is in their demo, it reflects poorly on the quality of their courses: let the buyer beware.

Are online First Aid/CPR courses any good?

That's a good question (also discussed at For many people, especially those who are good at self-study, online courses can be as good or better than class room training. In the case of First Aid, clearly an online course cannot have a practical component and cannot have an instructor watching to ensure that you perform the skills correctly (they instead center on videos). The three online vendors I have found currently offer AHA-compliant First Aid or CPR courses for approx $20 and combined courses for approx $36, which is less expensive than typical classroom training, easier to schedule (you can take it at 3 am if you like and can do it all it once or break it up), and you can work at your own pace, retaking the test for free if you do not pass the first time.

  • Pros:
    • Less expensive
    • Schedule/work at your own pace
    • Focus is on video demonstration; can pause or rewatch videos as needed
    • Can access course materials during your certification to review
    • Seem to be generally accepted by employers/organizations
    • Can take and certify very quickly
  • Cons:
    • No practical demonstration/No practical test
    • No hardcopy course materials
    • May be seen as less legitimate; may not be accepted by an employer or other organization; may not be accepted as a prerequisite for other training (e.g. First Responder)
    • You cannot ask questions or get things explained in a different way (although some of the online training appears to have on call instructors you can chat with)
    • You cannot interact with other students and benefit from their questions/approaches
  • Interesting:
    • Many 'in-person' First Aid/CPR courses now use videos for much of the instruction anyway
    • 'Practical demonstrations' are often not very practical: CPR dummies often don't have legs and almost certainly don't scream, suddenly vomit while performing rescue breaths, bleed, or have panicking, shrieking spouses. Classrooms don't really get across the experience of performing the skills in an emergency either

    Consistent self-review of materials and real life experience can be of more use than 'practical' classroom skills and a good online course might be a good option for recertifying. Online course are useful if: you have already had hands-on training, you learn well that way and are good at self-study, know how to look up additional information or find a professional to talk to, are proactive about practice and review, and are self-motivated to understand the material (rather than just memorize answers for a quiz), and especially if I you are easily bored by a class which is not fast-paced enough or taught by an interesting and engaging instructor. If these things are not true for you do not take an online course or, if you are in a hurry with a busy schedule, take the online course and follow it up with a 'real' course when you can schedule it. Your life or someone else's life may depend on your skill: do not skimp.
    If you do take an online course, you should probably purchase hard copy materials you can review offline. A First Aid manual is not something you consult in an emergency but need to look at frequently between emergencies. MobilReference has an excellent guide for the Nook, "First Aid and Home Doctor," which can be carried anywhere for frequent review and can be used to supplement First Aid instruction.