Cardiac & Resuscitation

The Show Must Go On

Veteran EMS educator Frank Poliafico, RN, is a “back to basics” kind of guy. He’s a practical man who believes people should learn what they need to know to do their jobs. He’s also a bit of a showman with a repertoire of 88 different card tricks. Add 38 years in nursing and EMS, and it seems fair to guess that Poliafico might have some unorthodox teaching methods.

Well, he outdid himself at the annual Michigan State EMS Expo back in April. There was an overflow audience for his lecture on the “Care of a Patient with Bone and Joint Injuries.” Poliafico was making some last minute adjustments to the classroom, when his foot caught a projector power cord. As he landed on the floor in front of a startled audience, he heard a snap. Someone in the front row of seats looked down at him and asked, “Are you all right?”

“I don’t think so,” said Poliafico. He’d torn his Achilles tendon. We’ll never know if his mind raced, as he lay there, to find a way to exploit this opportunity for some showmanship. Or if he simply has great teaching instincts.

Either way, Poliafico delivered his scheduled one-hour presentation, illustrating RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) with his own torn ankle. Later in the day, he conducted a four-hour workshop on the role of EMS in establishing and operating community AED programs. By that time, someone had come up with a wheelchair for him. There are no reports of his repeating the morning’s exercise of throwing himself into the subject by incorporating his own body, though he did manage to work in a few of his amazing card tricks.

AEDs are Poliafico’s passion these days. Many people have noted that AEDs don’t save lives, people using AEDs save lives. Poliafico has observed that training programs alone aren’t the answer to the problem of sudden cardiac arrest. Even people who have undergone training often don’t step up to use an AED when an emergency occurs. He says those events call on people overcoming two aversions common to our society: touching strangers and death. Add in tearing open a shirt or blouse to attach the AED leads and you’ll end up with bystanders standing by waiting for EMS to arrive. Most lay people will also worry about doing something wrong that makes the situation worse.

His solution is training with enough practice that students have the confidence to respond. Helping AED instructors develop effective programs through professional development is one of the goals of the Initial Life Support Foundation (formerly AED Instructor Foundation), where Poliafico serves as executive director.

The foundation provides services and resources to individual CPR/AED instructors, local EMS agencies and emergency care training & consulting entities to help extend the lives of “hearts and brains too good to die.” The foundation also offers discounted PADs from several AED manufacturers.

More information is available at„

Ann-Marie Lindstrom, a regular contributor to JEMS, writes primarily about EMS- and health-related subjects.