Training Students to Teach CPR, Raise Awareness in Communities


Megan McClean, a second-year medical student, practices how to perform hands-only CPR. She will take what she learned into the community and teach these lifesaving skills to others as part of a new training program.

Megan McClean puts her hands on top of each other, interlaces her fingers, and starts chest compressions. A second-year medical student, she’s practicing how to give hands-only CPR on a dummy during a new Chicago Cardiac Arrest Resuscitation Education Service (CCARES) program.

CCARES, an organization that aims to improve cardiac arrest survival in Chicago, will run training sessions from January 8-10 to instruct students on how to teach others to perform hands-only CPR and use automated external defibrillators (AEDs).

More than 25 medical and physician assistant students from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, University of Illinois College of Medicine, and Loyola University Chicago’s Stritch School of Medicine signed up for the sessions, which are led by emergency medicine residents. Following training, students will reach out to community groups, businesses, places of worship, and schools to create awareness and train people on these skills.

“I think it is important for medical students to not only learn the science of medicine, but also how to use their knowledge to be advocates in their community,” said McClean. “CCARES is an opportunity to become an advocate and have direct interaction with members of our community in a meaningful way. It is a chance to really make a difference as a medical student.”

McClean became involved in CCARES last year as part of a community service project. She helped create a video for middle school students to teach them the importance of sudden cardiac arrest awareness, chest compressions, and CPR.

The CCARES program provides students with benefits beyond education by giving them tools they will use as doctors, said Amer Aldeen, MD, assistant professor in emergency medicine and director of the organization.

“I think community outreach efforts are an important part of medical student competencies,” he said. “The ability to provide health education to your community is really what this project is all about and it is also a great deal of your development as a physician.”

The Medtronic Foundation, a maker of AEDs, funds the project. The foundation chose CCARES as the community leader for a $2.5 million, five-year grant to increase education and awareness of hands-only CPR and AED usage in Illinois.

“This sort of health prevention is extremely important because the dividends are huge. If we teach individuals in our community how to practice this, they will literally save a life, which I think can’t be measured in just numbers,” said Aldeen.  

About Author

Sarah Plumridge

Sarah Plumridge is a content specialist in the Office of Communications. She writes and takes photos for news stories covering education and alumni affairs, as well as research. She studied biology and studio arts at the University of Rochester and completed her master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications.

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