WVSOM’s Rural Health Initiative teaches high schoolers CPR

The lyrics to “Staying Alive” or “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” may soon be difficult for high school students to get out of their head. That’s because these songs are used to help someone keep pace while performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). 

WVSOM’s Rural Health Initiative (RHI) students will soon teach high school students throughout the state pertinent and potentially life-saving CPR skills. The training is a result of state legislature that requires boards of education to provide at least 30 minutes of instruction on the proper administration of CPR. So far, 32 states in the U.S. have passed laws or adopted curriculum changes to require hands-on, guidelines-based CPR training before high school graduation. Each year, an estimated 1.5 million public high school graduates will be trained in CPR with the new mandate. 

Janet Hinton, RHI program coordinator, has taught CPR for more than 10 years. She thinks the new mandate will help improve the survival rate of victims of sudden cardiac arrest. Hinton stressed what the American Heart Association reports that “effective bystander CPR provided immediately after sudden cardiac arrest can double or triple a victim’s chance of survival, but only 41 percent of cardiac arrest victims get CPR from a bystander.”    

The concept that medical students are helping high school students learn how to save lives seemed like a natural fit. Hinton said she wants to take the talented students in the RHI program into rural high schools in West Virginia and make a difference. 

“I have seen the loss of so many lives that may have been prevented if a bystander would have known how to perform CPR. Many loved ones wish they would have known how to perform CPR after it’s too late. WVSOM RHI students, many of whom have prior medical backgrounds, can make a difference and increase the chance of survival for all of West Virginia.”

RHI and second-year medical student, Tanner Tuggle, has already taught CPR to high school students in the Upward Bound Program this summer. He plans to continue to do so throughout the school year. 

“Most people think of doctors or first responders as the ones who save lives. However, anyone who knows CPR has the potential to save a life. For this reason, I wanted high school students to know that they can make a difference,” the Peterstown, W.Va., native said. “West Virginia is such a rural state. Unfortunately, our first responders sometimes have to travel far distances to reach a patient. If someone in every home knew CPR then they could begin resuscitation until medical help became available. Seconds can mean the difference between life and death so it is vital that help begin as soon as possible. If these high school students have this knowledge, then they can certainly make a difference.”

The American Heart Association’s CPR in Schools Training program provides a toolkit designed to include everything an educator needs to facilitate training to students. Training includes a reaction plan, hands-only CPR, child CPR (compressions and breaths), AED use, and simulated choking among adults and children.

Even though CPR training is a serious subject, those involved with the RHI program want the sessions to be fun and engaging. 

“We teach in ways that students will remember, such as saying to just push hard and fast if all else fails. We also go around to individual students and make sure they feel adequately prepared. At the end of our sessions, we quiz for review,” Tuggle said. “Our goal is for everyone to be able to perform CPR without missing a beat.”

Hinton said the training might also pique a high school student’s interest in a health-related career or better expose them to the medical field — an added bonus to saving someone’s life. 

“The goal of the RHI program is to engage RHI students in the CPR campaign to enhance outreach for health, lifestyle and chronic disease management in rural West Virginia, as well as encourage high school students to focus on becoming a D.O.,” Hinton said. 

High school students will receive a certificate of completion at the end of training. Educators who are interested in RHI students teaching CPR  at their school should contact Janet Hinton at jhinton@osteo.wvsom.edu or 304-793-6887.