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The Toronto Sun CareerConnection


Stay abreast of CPR/first aid

By David Chilton
Special to the Toronto Sun

Nick Rondinelli, who knows a thing or two about these things, says it's seniors who should be trained in standard first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Young people can and do have heart attacks, it's true, but they're far more common among those with gray hair and creaky joints.

Creaky joints, incidentally, are one of the things Rondinelli says he adjusts for when he's teaching older adults the basic first aid and CPR course at Heart to Heart First Aid CPR Services in Toronto, where he's the director. Seniors can have trouble kneeling, Rondinelli says.

Heart to Heart, like lots of places that teach first aid and CPR, takes its instruction on the road much of the time to show the employees of companies large and small what to do in the event a colleague suffers a heart attack.

"The workplace is a big, big market," Rondinelli says, because for one thing the Workplace Safety Insurance Board requires employers to have some staff trained in first aid and CPR on-site.

"We also teach a lot of nurses," Rondinelli continues, "along with dentists, dental hygienists, medical school graduates and the many students who need certification in standard first aid and CPR enrol in certain programs."

Michele Van Hee, education director at Vital Signs in Mississauga, says all of her company's instruction is away from home. "It's all off-site," Van Hee says. "Our niche is dentists' offices."

For clients with medical training, such as dentists and dental hygienists, Vital Signs can use more detail about how the heart works, Van Hee says, but for the learner who doesn't have that sort of background, such as a receptionist, the instructor is less likely to get technical.
Director of Heart to Heart First Aid CPR Services

At St. John Ambulance - a fixture at concerts and sporting events across the country - about 30% of its first aid and CPR training is taught off-site, says Nadeen George, who works in training operations.

George says St. John Ambulance instructs the Toronto police, TTC employees, the staff of most of the banks, in schools and in many other venues. The organization, like Heart to Heart, also attracts a good many college and university students, nannies caring for children and new parents, as well as the general public.

At Heart to Heart, instruction is spread over two full days, with an instructor to student ratio of about one to 12, Rondinelli says. His courses are authorized by the Canadian Red Cross and cost $95, $90 for students. Van Hee preferred not to reveal the cost of Vital Signs' instruction, which lasts 16 hours and works with a ratio of one instructor to five to seven learners. Vital Signs' courses are authorized by the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada.

St. John Ambulance has a first aid learner to instructor ratio of 18 to 1, George says, and CPR ratio of eight or 12 to 1. She tells clients a training day runs for eight hours, with fees averaging about $79 a person. St. John Ambulance, of course, certifies its own courses. However, George points out there's a wrinkle in the certification process. When the practitioners' certification runs out - typically after three years - WSIB requires them to take their refresher courses where they were initially trained.
  • CPR is usually taught in tandem with standard first aid.
  • Instruction typically takes two days to complete.
  • Courses can be taught weekdays or weekends and off-site instruction is a popular option for employees.
  • Fees are about $80 to $100 per person.
  • Certification usually lasts three years.

  • All three organizations, and all of the others that teach first aid and CPR, use mannequins for their instruction. Some are life-size and some of them just a head and torso, the latter being used for compression rate training, Van Hee says.

    Learners also practise on a live partner - and their early efforts leave something to be desired.

    "The first resuscitation on a real person is disastrous," Rondinelli says. "They freeze. They just freeze."

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