January 11, 2021

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One of the great challenges teaching in teaching CPR and First Aid is that I frequently encounter groups or students that are just used to showing up and listening to the boring class they have taken over and over. Many times students reflect that some instructors seem to have no working idea what they’re talking about. Of course, it is advantageous to be taught how to swim by a lifeguard; would you rather learn how to swim from a book?

There are many reasons a person would like to be a CPR instructor of course. I have an instructor friend whose only motivation to teach CPR is that he is a survivor… he’s passionate and adds a dimension I could never. He has otherwise little street experience. I know nurses who teach CPR but have never actually performed it… at least they have a scientific education. God bless them all.

“My instructor knew all of the teaching points but had no idea how to answer complicated questions, he lacked street experience.”


Understand that when we teach the lay public, our goal is to give them the tools to make a decision as to whether they can provide enough aid themselves when to call 911, and to stabilize and interface with responders.

The skills we teach as emergency instructors are always best taught by someone who has been there over and over and over. Sure we have fun stories, but I’ve seen guys teach classes that were more of a storytelling session. For the most part, being able to relate all topics to something seen before simply cannot be replaced.

Nothing can replace having shocked someone to live, put bandages on in the rain at night, or having to actually place a tourniquet on a gunshot wound.

So am I a snob?

No. I think that teaching emergency skills: CERT, CPR, or fire extinguishers are fine taught by “civilians”. These people should consider doing some field research so they can see the skills in action. You can build your cred by volunteering at a clinic, joining a CERT team, or some way of gaining a little experience. Many fire and ems systems have a program that you can even do a ride-along.

Even for the field experienced EMT should always be in tune with the changes and research and also keep updated on different teaching tools and methods. Many formats avail instructors to video support to teach, as you become experienced consider weaning from some of the videos.

So there’s no substitute for experience, however with or without “street whiskers” here are a few tips to become and continue being an all-star instructor.

  • Understand who your audience is. Are they plumbers, new mothers, babysitters, school nurses, teachers, or a mixed class?
  •  Are you teaching them the right course for the group? It’s an unnecessary challenge to teach a class that they will have no interest in.
  •  Prepare your material, and review topics you feel rusty on.
  •  Spend time teaching with a field-experienced person.
  •  Keep a notebook of questions from your classes and research, talk to a responder, ask your doctor… stay curious.
  • Always show up to class prepared and show up early… even if you have a few nerves, feeling relaxed will help
  • Take some public speaking training, it will pay dividends.

Good luck!

Brian M Dotson

CPR, AED, First Aid

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