Teaching skills that save lives

Posted on by Suzie Heitfeld, Health Communications Specialist, Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response

Instructor and student practicing CPR on mannequin.

We observed CPR and AED Awareness Week at the beginning of June. I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Stacy Thorne, a health scientist in the Office of Smoking and Health, who is also a certified first aid, CPR and AED instructor.

Stacy Thorne, PhD, MPH, MCHES
Stacy Thorne, PhD, MPH, MCHES

Stacy has a history of involvement in emergency response and preparedness activities at CDC. She is part of the building evacuation team; a group of employees who make sure that staff gets out of the building in case of a fire; or shelters in place during a tornado. When she learned CDC offered CPR and AED training classes to employees, she couldn’t think of a better way to continue volunteering, while helping people prepare for emergencies.

Stacy became a CPR/AED instructor in 2012. She felt these were important skills to have and wanted to stay up-to-date with the latest guidelines. She said, “You have to get recertified every two years, so if I was going to have to take the class anyway why not teach and make sure other people have the skills to save a life.”

Practice makes perfect

Stacy teaches participants first aid, CPR, and AED skills and gives them an opportunity to practice their skills and make sure they are doing them correctly. The class covers first aid for a wide-variety of emergency situations, including stroke, heart attack, diabetes and heat exhaustion. Participants learn how to:

  • Administer CPR, including the number of chest compressions and the number and timing of rescue breaths
  • Use an Automated External Defibrillator, more commonly referred to as an AED, which can restore a regular heart rhythm during sudden cardiac arrest.
  • Splint a broken bone, administer an epinephrine pen for allergic reactions, and bandage cuts and wounds

In order to receive their certification, all participants must complete a skills test where they demonstrate that they can complete these life-saving skills in a series of scenarios.

Lifesaving skills in actionCardiopulmonary resuscitation, commonly known as CPR, can save a life when someone’s breathing or heartbeat has stopped. CPR can keep blood flowing to deliver oxygen to the brain and other vital organs until help arrives and a normal heart rhythm can be restored.

Stacy shared, “The most rewarding part of teaching is meeting the different people who come to take these classes and hearing the stories of how they have used their skills.” One of her students recalled how she used her CPR skills to save someone while she was out shopping. Her instincts kicked in and when she was able to get the person breathing again the people watching applauded.

Another student reflected, “While I hope I never am in a situation where I need to perform CPR, the notion that I am now equipped with these life-saving skills is reassuring and helps me feel prepared if I should find myself in that scenario.” Stories like these show how important it is for everyone to be trained in first aid, CPR, and how to use an AED. You can spend six hours in training, and walk out with a certification that can save someone’s life.

Always on alert

As the mother of a 6-year old daughter, Stacy is constantly on alert for situations where she might need to use her skills. The closest she has come to using her skills was when her daughter was eating goldfish crackers while laying down and started gagging; she was at the ready to perform the Heimlich maneuver. Her role as an instructor made Stacy feel confident that she could use her first aid, CPR, and AED skills in an emergency.


Posted on by Suzie Heitfeld, Health Communications Specialist, Office of Public Health Preparedness and ResponseTags , , ,

9 comments on “Teaching skills that save lives”

Comments listed below are posted by individuals not associated with CDC, unless otherwise stated. These comments do not represent the official views of CDC, and CDC does not guarantee that any information posted by individuals on this site is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. Read more about our comment policy ».

    As part of our Employee Wellness Program, we have 17 medical responders trained in First Aid, CPR, AED by an AHA certified instructor.

    I love that the participants demonstrate the skills in a series of scenarios in order to receive the certification. That way you know you did them correctly and have the confidence when alone.

    I thought you use an
    AED and CPR with a cardiac arrest, not necessarily with a heart attack. They are different.

    As a nurse, it is imperative to know CPR. According to the American Heart Association, only 46% of people that have an out of hospital cardiac arrest, receive immediate life saving attention. In the event of cardiac arrest timing is everything. If every citizen knew CPR and could initiate it until emergency personnel arrive on the scene, there would be more positive outcomes. Not only the aspect of CPR but the knowledge of the Heimlich maneuver, could save your child’s or any other life that was choking.

    I am currently a nurse in the Emergency Room. From my perspective, I have seen many patients come to the ER in cardiac arrest, who’s family was inadequately equipped to deal with an emergency; and in turn did not start CPR immediately. CPR performed immediately and adequately can lead to much better outcomes for the patient. I am an advocate for every able-bodied person to become CPR, and first-aid certified. When EMS or medical professionals are unable to access the patient, the fate of the patient relies on those around them.

    After learning about cardiac arrest, I know that I learned how to do CPR at a scout camp around two years ago.
    Possibly cardiac arrest maybe thankfully has gotten rarer and rarer

Post a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

All comments posted become a part of the public domain, and users are responsible for their comments. This is a moderated site and your comments will be reviewed before they are posted. Read more about our comment policy »

Page last reviewed: June 26, 2017
Page last updated: June 26, 2017