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Empowering parents through CPR education

“It is our hope that providing CPR certification to these women proves valuable in strengthening families, teaching women how to care for both term and preterm infant in distress, and ensuring that some aspect of the health disparities affecting this region may begin to be remedied,” explains Kelly Facenda of her work with classmate Robin Webster. The students found it to be a gratifying experience.


“During one of our first visits to Catholic Social Services (CSS) in Southwest Philadelphia, we asked the women if there was anything in particular they would like to learn about, provided we could address it from a nursing perspective.  The women offered a few suggestions, but there was a lot of enthusiasm for one woman’s proposal that we teach them CPR,” notes Kelly Facenda describing the start of her Community Health Promotion Project. She and Robin Webster, a fellow student in the accelerated second degree BSN program working with the encouragement of Assistant Professor Elizabeth Petit de Mange, PhD, MSN, NP-C, RN, moved quickly from the what to the how.

After a CPR refresher from Assistant Professor Joyce S. Willens, PhD, RN,BC, a certified basic life support (BLS) instructor who would also be present during their teaching, the two started crafting their class presentations for June 21st which would train and certify the women from the CSS parenting class who registered.

infant CPR

Kelly describes the importance of the topic, “For the population served by CSS, CPR may be particularly valuable.  As per our course syllabus, Southwest Philadelphia has several percentages that serve to highlight the health disparity that exists to this day in the United States: 17.1% of all infants are born preterm, 15.1% of all infants are born with a low birthweight, and 15.4% of women receive late or no prenatal care.  With an infant mortality rate of 15.3 per 1000 births, Southwest Philadelphia serves as stark reminder of the need for health care equality.”  She goes on to describe the fears of families bringing home babies who required intensive care. “Infants born early often require special care, including stays in NICUs with respiratory and/or nutritional support, among other therapies.   The parents of these premature infants often feel overwhelmed and frightened at the prospect of bringing these babies home (Dillon & Connor, 2010),” Kelly writes, also noting a California-based program that indicated adequate training of parents of preterm infants may help them feel more secure at discharge.   

choking rescue
Dr. Willens poses as a choking victim during training.

Empowering these mothers, grandmothers and other caregivers fit with not only the students’ teaching goals but also those of CSS. To that end, Robin and Kelly provided CPR training and certification to nine women clients of CSS, with the support of Dr. Willens. They used portions of a BLS video for visual learning, a practice AED, and the adult, child and infant-sized CPR training mannequins for hands-on learning.  The women, who were enthusiastic learners, can continue to refer to a poster left by the students illustrating the basics of resuscitation in the main classroom used by CSS, so the women see it each time they attend a parenting class. 

CPR attendees
Newly certified in CPR, the ladies pose for a photo.