Holidays with Heart: Digital CPR Training Helps a Hospital Keep its Community Safe


COVID-19 has taken its toll on families and communities, there’s no doubt. But the pandemic has been especially challenging for healthcare workers, particularly in hospitals that serve smaller communities. Patients here might easily be a neighbor, the high school football coach, that familiar postal carrier, or the local business owner who knows just about everyone.

That was the situation at Northern Regional Hospital (NRH) in Mount Airy, North Carolina, a tight-knit community of just over 10,000 residents and recognizable as the setting for the ‘60s-era Andy Griffith Show. Offering an array of services including a fitness center, pharmacy, educational classes, and support groups, the 133-bed hospital is viewed as a community center and gathering spot as much as it is a place for medical care.

The pandemic, of course, put a temporary halt to many of Northern Regional Hospital’s group activities — including programs for the healthcare professionals who urgently needed to renew their CPR certifications.

Daniel Combs, RN-BSN, EMT-P, a 24-year Northern Regional Hospital veteran and Staff Development and Student Programs Coordinator recalled learning about digital resuscitation education programs that incorporate self-paced distance learning, at an American Heart Association® conference in 2018.

Working with RQI®, Daniel and Brandy Chilton, RN-BSN, Nurse Informatic Analyst, and the hospital’s education team reviewed the We Can Help program and knew it could serve as a solution for the hospital’s CPR recertification challenge during the pandemic.

Developed by the American Heart Association and RQI Partners in response to the pandemic, “We Can Help” is a 90-day, no-obligation rapid deployment of HeartCode Complete to aid healthcare workers in safely maintaining their CPR credentials and competence. The initial 90-day deployment was so effective, Northern Regional Hospital invested in rolling out the full HeartCode Complete program to its staff.

But the education team knew that healthcare professionals are not the only group that needs lifesaving CPR skills. With more than 350,000 cardiac arrests occurring outside of hospitals every year, bystander CPR can double or even triple a person’s chance of survival.

The team presented an idea to Northern Regional Hospital president and CEO Chris A. Lumsden: What about extending a portion of the hospital’s HeartCode Complete CPR training licenses to members of the Mount Airy community?

Daniel Combs, RN-BSN, EMT-P and President and CEO Chris A. Lumsden of Northern Regional Hospital in Mount Airy, North Carolina

“I have been a BCLS instructor for over 25 years and feel confident with my teaching abilities but it was evident that the students performed better with the skills portion when using the HeartCode Complete program, said Combs.  “The students receive audio and visual feedback and are able to improve on compressions and ventilations in real-time.  I was able to witness students who traditionally would struggle with compression and ventilations improve their skills.  This improvement in High-Quality CPR will ultimately result in more saved lives for the people in our communities.”

Combs continued, “The biggest compliment I can give about this program is that Northern Regional Hospital now has the ability to register someone for the HeartCode Complete program, which can assist NRH’s employees and the community in obtaining and maintaining these certifications without requiring the students to attend in a traditional classroom setting.  The leadership of NRH and Staff Development have made it possible to complete a certification during these trying times while ensuring that the students are competent with the skills involved in Basic and Advanced Life Support for both pediatrics and adults.”

“We really are relying on each other more than ever right now,” he explains. “What better way to look out for our neighbors than by giving them the tools to save someone’s life, especially during the holidays?”

Recognized as a Top 10% U.S. hospital for medical excellence, Northern Regional Hospital is an extension of the families it serves and has a longstanding mission of providing CPR education to its hometown.

With the initial 50 BCLS, 15 ACLS and 15 PALS classes given to NRH by the “We Can Help” program, the hospital was able to “catch up” on classes that were canceled due to the pandemic and assure all NRH staff maintained their required certifications.  Thanks to the new program, they recertified front-line providers including doctors, nurses, paramedics, CNA’s, respiratory therapists, and other ancillary staff.  As a bonus, NRH also provided community members with re-certification options, including local EMS, rescue squads, nursing instructors, and high school and college students pursuing careers in the medical field.

“We couldn’t be prouder of the commitment to community care that we have here at Northern Regional Hospital,” says President and CEO Chris A. Lumsden. “The education team’s initiative to extend CPR training beyond the hospital’s walls embodies our mission and creates a powerful ripple effect that ultimately saves lives.”

In the world of resuscitation science, the term “Chain of Survival” is used to describe the sequence of events needed to improve patient outcomes. By extending lifesaving CPR education in a safe, effective manner to the community, Northern Regional Hospital strengthened multiple links in the chain — a welcome bright spot as we prepare to move past the pandemic and into a healthier 2021.

This article was co-authored by Crysandy Marte.

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