Saving A Life: Meeting Learners Where They Are

Anyone can learn how to save a life, but not everyone learns in the same way. Some people just need a different set of learning tools to achieve the same results. And, if you do not have the right tools for a specific group of learners and you’re Angie Jackson, RRT, simulation education specialist, Center for Simulation and Research, you make them. Three years ago, Jackson saw a need when taking over the CPR and first aid training for our Project SEARCH interns with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Traditional CPR courses are created for someone reading at a fifth-grade level or above. This was a challenge for Jackson since, according to a survey, many Project SEARCH interns read at a second to fourth-grade level. The disconnect bothered her. “No learner should be overlooked,” said Jackson. “We just have to figure out a way to meet the specific needs for every level of learner.” Like any great teacher, Jackson started doing her homework. She reached out to Erin Riehle, RN, founder of Project SEARCH and senior director, Disabilities Services, and the vision began to create an interactive study kit to teach life-saving skills to learners in need of an alternative approach and setting. Along with Maryellen Daston, project manager, Disability Services, the team surveyed over 500 Project SEARCH sites. Sixty percent of sites reported that they were adapting the CPR course to meet the needs of their learners. Jackson’s determination to best serve learners with intellectual and developmental disabilities grew into a toolkit, complete with hands-on exercises and a laminated board game. In order to trial its effectiveness and prepare learners for the American Heart Association HeartSaver CPR/First Aid Course for certification, Jackson broke up the Project SEARCH CPR training into four, 30-minute sessions: How to help someone in trouble, CPR, Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) and a final review. “The topic of CPR and the possibility of having to do CPR can be a source of stress for all levels of learners,” said Jackson. “The CPR kit introduces a sensitive topic through real-life scenarios in a way that is non-threatening and therefore eases much of the stress brought on by the topic.” Over three years of using the homegrown kit, Angie observed positive changes for this group of learners that included better course understanding and retention, as well as increased confidence and lower stress levels.

Shark Tank: The Pitch

Jackson and Riehle never considered themselves entrepreneurs. But this idea had potential.

“We wanted to create a study kit that could be widely distributed to have a great impact and possibly save lives,” Jackson said.

Enter Cincinnati Children’s Innovation Ventures. Jackson, Riehle and Daston applied for Innovation Ventures’ internal funding program for the resources and guidance to take their idea to the next level. The innovators gave a five-minute pitch to sell the idea to a panel of our staff, as well as venture capital and industry representatives from the business and tech fields, much like you would see on the TV show “Shark Tank.” The panel saw promise and granted the project $55,000 to further develop their prototype and begin their journey as entrepreneurs. Since January, the team has partnered with the LiveWell Collaborative Group and four Cincinnati Children’s employees, who are Project SEARCH graduates, to design the kit — Christina Bockstiegel, clerical assistant, Emergency Services; Christopher Boerner, clerical assistant, Scheduling Center; Michael Celek, supply chain technologist, Occupational Therapy/Physical Therapy, and Conner Sweeney, patient escorter, Liberty. By May, a new and improved prototype was ready.

A CPR Kit Transformation

Many working with LiveWell begin with just an idea on paper. This project was much further along and essentially had a prototype created by Jackson, but it needed refinement. Bockstiegel, Boerner, Celek and Sweeney volunteered to use the tool to learn CPR while also suggesting improvements. The end goal was to get their certification and ultimately help more people learn CPR.

“I thought of it as a way to help make it easier so that CPR can be taught to others who may have different ways of learning,” said Boerner. “CPR, in my opinion, is one of the important things that you are able to learn. Any moment, anywhere, there may come a time where your knowledge of CPR or first aid will be put to the test. My hope is that this product will help those to learn and remember at a stronger rate.”

LiveWell relied on feedback from the four learners on everything from font size to color and more. Bockstiegel suggested “making (the game) look more like Candyland because that’s more colorful and more interesting for kids.” One of Boerner’s ideas was to “improve the game player pieces by giving each one a special ability.”

Other enhancements were needed to incorporate the vital and interactive skills work usually performed with a CPR mannequin or AED trainer in a class setting.

LiveWell designed a series of pull-away game boards that share a foam core chest and picture an infant, child and an adult, so learners can practice their CPR compressions. It also includes a CPR button that plays the beats to guide learners in the correct rate of compressions and an interactive AED model that has sound effects and prompts players with instructions on what to do. “Place pads on chest. Press the shock button.”

Moving through the game, players pick a fact card to answer multiple choice questions or a skills card to demonstrate what they know.

Michael Celek (L), with Anna Meloy (center) and Alexis Begnoche (R), went through CPR training before and wanted to make sure that his skills were still sharp. “I’m looking forward to getting recertified and being able to see with my own eyes how well the product I helped out with works.”

The CPR study kit is a fun way to provide all learners with an opportunity to learn how to save a life. It contains real-life stories, interactive exercises and a board game that introduces an important yet sometimes scary topic in a non-threatening way.

Connor Sweeney does CPR compressions on the infant board. He says, “I’m proud of the fact that it’s going to be more available to kids with special needs and kids that don’t have special needs but little kids too. It could help a lot of people.”

Christina Bockstiegel (center), plays the game with Angie Jackson (L), Alexis Begnoche (R) and Anna Meloy (front) during the design development. She says, “I was very nervous at first. I didn’t know what was to be expected or if I was going to be prepared. Now that I’ve been through it, I feel more relaxed. I’ve learned a whole lot.”

The CPR kit has been informally tested in the context of Project SEARCH, a work-preparation program for young people with intellectual and developmental disabilities who are transitioning from high school to competitive employment.

Inspiring Learners, Building Confidence

The CPR kit workbook opens with an inspiring story about Ava. Based on a true story about a Project SEARCH graduate, Ava performs CPR and saves the life of a 2-year-old who falls into a lake at a park. Jackson came across the story in her research and would always start her training by telling it with a picture book that she had a former intern illustrate. “It gave the learners a sense of confidence that ‘I can do this,’” said Jackson. Like many of the learners, Sweeney was nervous and hesitant about learning CPR at first. “The story shows people that it can happen to anyone. It can happen anywhere,” said Sweeney. “The way that Angie teaches it is fun. It sticks to the brain. You remember doing that CPR kit, and you can remember it for the rest of your life.” Written on a third-grade level, the workbook includes lots of visuals and highlights the CPR basics. The kit also contains sorting cards to allow learners to lay out the steps of CPR in sequence from the first action in getting help to when the ambulance arrives. “A regular CPR certification training would be really hard for me,” said Celek. “The kit is intended as a study tool to be able to learn the steps. Since there are pictures and bigger words, that’s so much easier. It boosted my confidence and lowered my stress level.”

This summer, Bockstiegel, Sweeney and Celek will take the final step to get CPR certified. Boerner will test for his recertification. When asked if they’re ready, they all said: “Absolutely.”

Inspiring Others to Learn CPR

Under the guidance of Innovation Ventures, the team will explore options for licensing, producing, promoting and distributing the kit once it is ready for the market.

For Jackson, it’s surreal. She hopes it will motivate more people to want to learn how to save a life. Beyond participants in the Project SEARCH program, she can imagine it helping residents in low socio-economic areas and students in primary grades.

“There is a whole area of outreach that is untouched. We can touch families that are at higher risk and have a greater chance of needing to do CPR in their neighborhood or home but don’t have the tools they need,” said Jackson, who is grateful for the learner group’s dedication and enthusiasm for the project. “They put their whole hearts into their work, which is an inspiration to me and many,” she said. “They can achieve anything that anybody can achieve if we’re willing to take the time to meet them on their level of learning.” Special thanks to the project team:

  • Christina Bockstiegel, clerical assistant, Emergency Services
  • Christopher Boerner, clerical assistant, Scheduling Center
  • Michael Celek, supply chain technologist, Occupational Therapy/Physical Therapy
  • Maryellen Daston, project manager, Disability Services
  • Anabel Graciela, Livewell Collaborative Group
  • Meredith Kincaide, employment support specialist, Disability Services
  • Anna Meloy, employment support specialist, Disability Services
  • Elaine Messerly, Livewell Collaborative Group
  • Erin Riehle, senior clinical director, Disability Services
  • Nicole Sidenstick, Livewell Collaborative Group
  • Conner Sweeney, patient escorter, Liberty
  • Luke Wasserman, business director, Patient Services
  • The LiveWell Collaborative Group (Alexis Begnoche, Bain Butcher, Linda Dunseath)

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