Innovative CPR Learning Game by Cincinnati Children’s to be Launched by Attainment Company

Thursday, April 06, 2023

In January 2023, millions watched as emergency personnel worked to save the life of Damar Hamlin, the Buffalo Bills football player who collapsed on the field with cardiac arrest. Key tools that helped save his life that day included the quick use of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and an Automatic External Defibrillator (AED) and, most importantly, the actions of emergency personnel who were certified to use these tools. Broader access to education and certification is important to communities, classrooms and individuals who need these skills for employment.

Performing CPR is a skill that most anyone can learn, yet most CPR courses are not designed for people with different learning needs. To earn CPR certification, a student must sit through hours of classroom instruction, understand written concepts, demonstrate chest compressions and take a test. For those with special learning needs or for whom reading is difficult, passing this type of course can seem overwhelming and can get in the way of securing employment that requires CPR certification. That’s why Cincinnati Children’s created the CPR toolkit, called “CPR and AED Basics,” to help people with learning challenges or disabilities master this important lifesaving skill, and Attainment Company secured the rights to bring it to market.

“Many great jobs require you to become CPR certified, and it’s just not that easy for everyone to achieve, not because they can’t perform CPR, but rather because the one-size-fits-all instruction and test requirements are a challenge for a number of people,” says Erin Riehle, RN, MSN, director of Disability Services, founder of Project SEARCH (PS) and co-inventor of this toolkit. “Project SEARCH focuses on helping and training young people with a range of different learning needs to find employment, and this was a hurdle our members kept encountering.”

Project SEARCH was developed in 1996 at Cincinnati Children’s, a research environment that fosters visionary thinking and innovation. That same thinking and drive to innovate helped shape a solution for the CPR certification issue.

Angela Jackson, R.R.T., retired Cincinnati Children’s employee, had an idea to address the issue. “The inspiration for the kit came when I met Perla Rodriquez. She was a Project SEARCH graduate from Georgia. She took an ‘adapted’ CPR course in her PS program. After graduation, she gave CPR to save the life of a 2-year-old who fell into a lake,” says Jackson. This story helped her realize the need for this tool. Jackson collaborated with Riehle and other Project SEARCH staff Tina Martin, M.Ed., and Maryellen Daston, PhD, to create a competitive board game with mannequins, game pieces and sorting cards. This game helped users learn and practice CPR skills in preparation for the certification class in a fun, low-pressure way.

The Project SEARCH team brought their concept to Cincinnati Children’s Innovation Ventures, which helps employees develop ideas that have commercial potential with the goal of licensing them out to companies that can take them to market in order to benefit children and adults. “The CPR toolkit is just one example of hundreds of innovations under development at our medical center,” says Abram Gordon, vice president of Innovation Ventures. “Each idea represents the experience and ingenuity of our employees. These clinicians and scientists are developing new ways to improve patient care, and their novel ideas are what help shape Cincinnati Children’s culture of innovation.”

The Project SEARCH team secured funds to move their idea forward through a Cincinnati Children’s Innovation Fund award. This funding enabled them to work with the Live Well Collaborative, a multidisciplinary design non-profit, which partnered with the University of Cincinnati’s College of DAAP to get their product ready for the commercial market. Read more about the innovation process in this Cincinnati Children’s Inspire Magazine article at CPR kit - Inspire, June 2021.

The Live Well Collaborative tested and refined the design with end users to be more inclusive. Photos and graphics represent many races and abilities. Cards are in large print for those with visual impairments. “What I like about it,” Riehle says, “is that the kit makes CPR concepts accessible to everyone.”

Attainment Company, an educational product company dedicated to helping people with disabilities succeed in school, work and life, recognized the potential of this innovative game. “When we received the prototype, Attainment wanted to find a way to keep costs down and get the kit into as many hands as possible,” says Autumn Garza, president and CEO of Attainment. “To do so, we had the idea to put the AED device in an app format. However, our software team insisted that the entire toolkit become digitized to improve accessibility.” The app now includes all aspects of the kit – AED, Perla Saves the Day, Check, Call, Care and Life Saving Skills books, posters, sorting cards, game cards and an interactive board game. Attainment released the product this week. If you would like to learn more, visit CPR & AED Basics.

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Michael Mattingly