Even with accommodations to Covid-19 in place throughout the health care industry, Hill

Country Memorial (HCM) has maintained the continuing education and certification of its medical staff in the areas of CPR and First Aid training.

Leading this effort is Dawn Sparrow, Health Educator, who heads the American Heart Association (AHA) Community Training Center located in the HCM Wellness Center.

“Lots of organizations had to suspend their classes because of Covid-19,” Sparrow explained. “The American Heart Association granted 120-day extensions, but we are one of the few hospitals that never missed a beat. Our people stayed current, stayed certified, and stayed competent.”

HCM implemented the AHA Resuscitation Quality Improvement Program (RQI) four years ago after studies showed that people trained in CPR lose those skills within 90 days of completing a class. All 350 medical staff members now take RQI quarterly skills training at HCM, the first hospital in the area to recognize the need and implement RQI.

The results have been dramatic. In the first year, the staff more than quadrupled cardiac arrest saves.

In addition to keeping all medical staff certified and competent, the Training Center offers classes to public organizations and individuals, both on and off-site. Sparrow has trained health care workers, school employees, child care workers, city employees, law enforcement officers, first responders, and employees of nonprofit organizations. Others utilizing the service include adoptive parents, foster parents, construction workers, and any individual requiring CPR certification for employment.

Those groups are important because of the high percentage of cardiac arrests that occur in daily life.

“Almost 80% of out-of-hospital cardiac arrests happen at home,” Sparrow noted. “That means you are more likely to perform CPR on a loved one than a stranger. And by being able to recognize cardiac arrest and immediately start CPR, you can double or even triple that person’s chance of survival.”

Over the past three years, the Training Center has trained 3,257 individuals in CPR and First Aid.

Sparrow also is able to customize training, such as a “family and friends” class for expectant mothers and their relatives to learn child first aid.

“These help the family feel more confident when the baby arrives, plus they have been really fun to do,” she said.

Sparrow noted the “ripple effect” this training holds for area residents.

“Over the past three years, the 38 instructors have been responsible for training more than a thousand people annually, in all the surrounding areas,” she said. “If we did not offer this training through the hospital, people would have to travel to Austin or San Antonio to get certified.”

The Training Center has been able to continue providing community classes by following CDC recommendations, including smaller class sizes, wearing masks, sanitizing equipment, and the use of blended training with some of the coursework available online.

She noted this is another service offered by the HCM Wellness Center that makes an impact in the community “beyond the building.”

“I have people come up to me all the time and say how the class helped them save somebody,” she said. “When you hear stories like that you get goosebumps. I know we are doing something very important and I am passionate about it. If it can help even one person, I’m happy.”

For information on signing up for a class or arranging CPR training, contact the Wellness Center at 830-997-1355, or visit hillcountrymemorial.org.