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How Long Does CPR Certification Last?

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Differences: Certification, Training, Recertification and Refreshing Skills

Moms seem to have a magical ability to hug away hurts and kiss away tears. But for those injuries and accidents that produce more than what could be called simple boo-boos, savvy moms seek expert training in lifesaving skills such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), so they know exactly what to do in life-threatening emergencies. It’s important to find out what kind of training you’re signing up for, though, and the reasonable or mandated time frame for keeping your skills sharp in case you need them.

Red Cross Certification

The American Red Cross offers courses in CPR that lead to certification. At the end of the course, you will receive a card that says you are certified to perform CPR. Your certification lasts for two years until it expires. To keep it current, take a refresher course before your current certification expires.

American Heart Association Training

The American Heart Association (AHA) offers training courses in CPR. Within 20 days of completing the course, you will receive a course completion card, which isn’t called a certification card, nor does it state you are certified in CPR. The card simply validates that you took the course, and at that time, you could perform CPR. According to the AHA, the card issued is: “valid for two years through the end of the month during which the course completion card was issued.” In other words, if you take the course in April, your card is valid through April 30 of the second year after you took the course.

Pediatric CPR Training

Parents will probably want to ensure the course includes instruction on giving CPR to infants and children. Even though most courses do include this type of training, if it isn’t specifically stated in the course description, verify its inclusion before you register. For CPR purposes, an infant is a child under age 1; a child is age 1 to puberty; and puberty and up is considered an adult.

Other Providers and Online Courses

Many other organizations also offer CPR classes that typically follow either AHA or Red Cross training methods, including some local to your area. If you’re required to take CPR for your job, ask your employer which certification you need or if it’s OK if it doesn’t result in certification.

Online courses are offered for convenience. However, since CPR is a hands-on technique that must be performed accurately to be effective, you’ll usually need to attend an in-person session to demonstrate your ability in using proper CPR form.

AED and First Aid, Too

Most CPR classes also provide training in using an automated extended defibrillator (AED), a portable device that can improve the chance of recovery in the event of a sudden cardiac arrest. An AED checks for irregular heart rhythm and, if warranted, delivers an electric shock to stabilize it.

Some CPR classes—notably those offered by the Red Cross—are combined with first aid classes. These classes cover the most common situations parents are likely to encounter in their children, from broken bones to deep cuts and hypothermia to heat exhaustion.

Retraining, Recertifying and Refreshing Skills

Chances are you won’t have to use your CPR training, so over time, you may forget some of what you learned. That’s why most organizations put a two-year expiration on their training or certification. At that point, you’ll need to retrain. If you have Red Cross certification in CPR and first aid, you’ll need to take the recertification class before your certification expires. If it expires first, you must take the longer, first course again instead. The Red Cross also recommends refreshing your skills every few months.

Card or No Card, to Help or Not Help?

Legally, you aren’t required to have official certification or a card to perform CPR. Every state has a Good Samaritan Law that protects non-medical people who help someone who is injured or unconscious, as long as you act with good intentions and take reasonable actions. According to the AHA, it’s better to attempt CPR than to do nothing, even if your technique isn’t totally accurate.

Many people wonder, once they have received training in CPR, if they are required to help someone in distress. If you aren’t a first responder whose job it is to perform CPR, you are not legally required to do so.