CPR Instructor’s Top 3 Common Mistakes

Even CPR Instructors have to be monitored and vetted every 2 years to maintain their certification. This week I set down with an AHA Training Faculty member who is responsible for monitoring instructors. During instructor monitoring, instructors are observed teaching a class and then given feedback. This training faculty member gave me the lowdown on the most common mistakes CPR instructors make in their classes. The feedback isn’t what you would expect either. Are you guilty of any of these mistakes?Read below to find out!

#1. Talking Too Much

First up, let’s discuss how much an instructor should talk in class. The tendency most instructors have is to talk too much. Whether instructors are nervous or too comfortable, talking more than necessary is a bad habit many have.

Many instructors fall into this habit in an attempt to be personable. Being personable is important to help your students feel comfortable in class. When students feel at ease they are more likely to engage and ask questions. However, the fall back of being ‘too personable’ is that your personality or stories can detract from the curriculum.

While first hand experience with First Aid and CPR response can be enlightening for students, it can also be distracting from the content. The best CPR instructors are usually people who have both experience in the field, but also understand their role as a facilitator in the classroom. In one study, the American Heart Association (AHA) found that students understanding of class content was better when they learned only from watching videos. When videos were combined with instructor facilitation, comprehension decreased.

In a perfect world, videos and personal instruction is ideal. However, this requires instructors to be discerning on what is shared with their audience. Many CPR instructors get in the way of delivering content by confusing students with stories. Students may misunderstand information shared and come to the wrong conclusions. Even worse, students may hear stories and be discouraged from feeling like they could use their skills in an emergency.

How to Avoid Talking Too Much:

The best tip is to keep stories to a minimum. Save stories or FAQ time for a snack or coffee break time instead of weaving it into a class. Remember that most content has been thoughtfully put together and trialed to give students the best chance of retaining information. Adding more content can make it hard for students to remember even the basics.

#2. Prevent Student Error

Next up, we discussed a good instructors ability to anticipate student error. Obviously, you can’t anticipate everything. However, most students are predictable and the same common errors happen over and over.

One of the best feedback tools for instructors is the skills tests and written tests. When testing a class, the instructor should examine if multiple students made the same errors. If this is the case, the instructor should evaluate how their teaching should be changed to prevent these errors in the future.

For example, one error a lot of students make is performing chest compressions during at too high (>120bpm) of a rate during CPR. Any instructor that has taught a few classes will witness this. A good instructor will remind students of compression rate and briefly explain that faster compressions are not better compressions. Instructors also have tools like the Prestan Professional Adult CPR Manikin that give students instant feedback on their compression rate.

Another example are questions missed on a test. It’s important that instructors review ANY and EVERY missed question on an exam. Regardless if the student made a passing score, it’s important that the instructor take the opportunity to correct any misunderstandings of class information. Furthermore, this is an opportunity for instructors to consider how they can prevent misunderstandings earlier in the class.

#3. Not Following the Agenda

Gasp… the top error instructors make is simply not following the course agenda. Instructors are required to follow the given agenda in certifying classes. However, many instructors teach what they’ve been taught and never study the material in detail. Remember how we talked about how students learn better with video only content? One reason this is true is because instructors do not follow the curriculum the way that videos do.

Failure to adhere to the agenda is the number one issue reported during instructor monitoring. Many instructors don’t think it’s a big deal because they have seen others do it. Similar to speeding, many people don’t think it’s a big deal until they have to deal with the consequences of it. People speed all the time and it’s generally not an issue until they’re caught or someone gets hurt. CPR and First Aid education is the same way. CPR Instructors and students that take courses that do not follow the agenda open themselves up to lawsuit. Both CPR instructors and CPR certified card holders have been sued for wrongful death because of this error.

Every AHA instructor is required to have both a copy of the student manual and instructor manual. When being monitored instructors must show that they have both of these items. In the instructor manual are several different lesson plan options. While lesson plans vary based on full course, renewal courses, blended courses, etc… a lesson plan must be used for every class. Under no circumstances are instructors allowed to blend agendas or skip parts of the curriculum. When an instructor issues a certification they are validating that the student completed the curriculum as it was designed to be completed.


Quality assurance is so important in healthcare education. The way students are taught can be the difference between life or death for the victims they encounter. Be sure to take the time to evaluate your teaching habits and make sure you set yourself up for success when you’re monitored sometime in the next two years. Furthermore, make sure that your students are set up for success and ready to help one of your loved ones in the event of an emergency.

CPR Instructor Renewal Requirements: Read here.

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