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Meet Emily Stang of Lionheart CPR

“Jump on the chest!”

Emily Stang

“Get on the chest! When in doubt jump on the chest!,” yells Emily Stang to the crowded room.

“But,” she adds hastily, “not with your feet!”

This is a typical workday conversation for Stang. As the owner, founder, and soul of Lionheart CPR, she is dedicated to teaching others that they have what it takes to deal in a crisis.

But make no mistake: Lionheart CPR is not your typical CPR course and Stang is not your typical instructor.

When she’s not cheering on chest compressions, other scenes from her classrooms include men giving birth, apples being battered and bandaged, and little bits of improv before a quick doughnut break.

“This is not a conventional CPR course,” the lifeguard-turned actor-turned CPR instructor promises. “We’re empowering people with life saving knowledge. We’re not only teaching what to do, but we’re instilling then with the courage that they can actually do it.”

That’s because Stang knows first hand how important first aid knowledge--and execution--can be.

Employed as a lifeguard as a teen, Stang stepped away from the first aid world when she began university; however, her past caught up to her when she graduated and began her first job.

While at work one day, her CEO collapsed; while Stang was able to call EMS, she wished that she could have done more to help, especially considering her past first aid and CPR training. She was astonished at how quickly the skills from her training had faded from her memory.

Without hesitation, she enrolled herself in a first aid program to refresh her skills, but something about the course did not sit well with her.

“I took the class and immediately realized there was a gap,” Stang admits. “I felt like one of the main focuses of the CPR industry was to churn out certifications, without passionate instructors or a focus on hands-on practise necessary to foster knowledge retention.

She felt that the sitting-in chairs listening to lectures setting was a world away from what she actually experienced firsthand in the office with her CEO.

So Stang came up with a simple, but brilliant, solution: she decided to fill that gap by bridging textbook instructions with real life situations. Utilising her acting background, she created a teaching method that is not only fun, hands on, and interesting, but one that is practical, informative, and prepares participants to respond to real-life emergencies.

“In a typical Lionheart CPR class, you’re mainly on your feet,” Stang explains. “In fact, it’s not uncommon for people to follow up with me saying they felt like they just had a workout!”

Stang in action, teaching a class

That’s because Stang is a firm believer in muscle memory (rather than textbook recitation) and employs as much of a hands-on experience as possible. Every participant gets their own Prestan Manikins to maximize on practice time, they work in teams so no one is sitting stagnant behind a desk, and she subscribes to a more open learning strategy so she can answer questions and be more adaptable to the learning needs of individual groups.

She is adamant that everyone feels comfortable to ask questions and make mistakes in her class, while giving them a memorable experience. Men simulate childbirth (“equal rights!,” she stresses) for the pregnancy portion of the class, while another section sees participants inflicting wounds on apples and then using real life bandaging techniques.

In fact, the apple teaching strategy has been such a hit that at the 2018 International First Aid Education Conference, Stang won the “Innovative Approaches to First Aid Education” plenary session competition, which has resulted in her apple-as-a-test-subject article being published into the International Journal of First Aid Education, as well as being adopted into training programs in numerous other countries such as Pakistan and the Netherlands.

However, at the end of the day, Stang always goes back to success in the classroom.

“There’s always laughter, questions, and a lot of trial and error,” she affirms, “mixed with role play, teamwork, and a whole lot of self reflection. I can't be there when people actually have to respond to an emergency, so self-reflection in my class is key so that participants can guide themselves through the process and everyone can focus on their own progress and pace of learning.”

Stang’s goal is not to churn out certifications, but rather teach people what to do in a real situation, and more importantly, to let them know that the most important part is that people are courageous enough to help in an emergency.

“I suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after responding to the medical emergency with my boss, thinking about what I forgot to do, wishing I had done more” Stang openly admits. “It tooks me a long time to realize my experience was normal, that it was ‘okay’ to feel like that.”

“And that’s what I want to teach my students: that seeking help and support for PTSD is an important part of being a first aider - to take care of yourself. And that your response is never going to be perfect. That doing something is always better than doing nothing. I want them to know that they already have the courage to help.”

Stang believes in the courage of people so much, she nods to it in her company’s name.

“Being in a situation where you have to intervene is definitely a terrifying thing,” Stang acknowledges. “That’s where Lionheart originated from. I thought of the Cowardly Lion [in The Wizard of Oz] and how he didn’t think he had it in him until the time actually came.That's exactly how I felt when I responded to an emergency. I want people to think of Lionheart as revealing to them their already existing courage that it takes to help someone.”

“You have the courage in you,” Stang confirms to all her students. “And I promise to help you discover it.”

Emily Stang is the Founder of Lionheart CPR where she provides engaging Red Cross First Aid and CPR training to businesses and individuals in the Greater Toronto Area. She is a soon-to-be Red Cross Instructor Trainer, First Aid & CPR Instructor, a Supervising Instructor, a Blended Learning Instructor, an Oxygen Administration Instructor, and a Water Safety Instructor, all completely certified by the Canadian Red Cross. Emily holds her Honours Bachelor of Commerce in Marketing Management from the University of Guelph.

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