From Bob McParland
High School Dist. 218
As the school nurses in District 218 set out this semester to train freshmen
in life-saving techniques, they noted a trend. During their week long workshops
at Richards, Shepard and Eisenhower high schools, students confided they had
suffered choking incidents.
"It's even more common than having to do CPR," said Janet Callahan, the nurse
at Shepard High School in Palos Heights. "Many of the students said they had
been victims of choking themselves, so I think now they understand the
importance of the training and have confidence assisting someone who is in
Over the course of three weeks, the nurses trained nearly 700 students in
cardiopulmonary resuscitation, intervention with choking victims, use of
automated external defibrillators, and other life-saving techniques.
"Statistically 88 percent of cardiac arrests occur within the home," said
Eisenhower nurse Maureen Featherstone. "Unless CPR is given within minutes of
collapse, few attempts of resuscitation are successful. Therefore, effective CPR
can double or triple a victim's chance of survival. Many students felt confident
after completing the week lesson and felt confident with their skills."
The nurses found students maintained their focus during training.
"They were cooperative, enthusiastic, and engaged in the training," said
Peggy Gbur, the nurse at Richards High School in Oak Lawn. "Their questions were
well thought out. For example, one student asked 'if they are choking and pass
out, why would you blow into their mouth?' It was a great question, and a good
discussion followed. They related it to experiences they had at home with loved
Helping someone who's choking or experiencing cardiac arrest can overwhelm
anyone with fear or uncertainty. The nurses, however, felt that students felt
pretty confident after training.
"They felt empowered. You could feel their excitement and energy. I feel it
was very worthwhile and hope to continue to train our young students," Gbur
The nurses related personal experiences in life saving to the students.
"I performed CPR at a college campus and not one other person was certified
in CPR. That situation has always made me realize that we need to get as many
people trained in CPR as possible," said Margaret Eber, the nurse at Delta
Learning Center and Summit Learning Center.
Certification only lasts a couple of years before expiring. It impressed Eber
that students thought that far ahead.
"They asked when and where they can get recertified," she said.
Students also talked about the potential circumstances where they might need
to save a life.
"Some of the students said they babysit for their siblings or neighbors.
They're glad they will know how to react in an emergency. Others said they were
interested in health care as a career and that CPR certification will be
needed," Eber said.
When the nurses finished at each school, they performed an assessment to
measure the effectiveness of the training.
"The evaluation day was such a positive experience," Eber said. "We were able
to work with small groups to assess what the students had learned. To see the
students practicing what they had learned and realizing that they could respond
in an actual emergency was pretty inspiring."
"All in all it was very worthwhile," Gbur said. "I had some students thank me
the week after we finished. I also was testing them with a question or two when
they came in the office."
She would ask them 'how many compressions and breaths would you do for CPR?'
"And guess what? They said with a smile '30 compressions to 2 breaths.' So,
yeah, they did learn," Gbur said.