We’ve all seen the following scene in movies and on television: the hospital patient’s heart stops beating and medical professionals run into the room; two pads are placed on the patient’s chest and someone yells  ”Clear!” A button is pressed, and the two pads deliver electric shocks to the patient’s chest. The medical professionals all look at the heart monitor and collectively breathe a sigh of relief as the patient’s heart starts to beat again.

That life-saving machine is called an Automated External Defibrillator (AED), and Canadian born nurse and educator Patricia Sulaiman is on a mission to teach its techniques to healthcare professions and everyday citizens in the United States and Nigeria.

 

“Everybody and anybody needs to have this type of training.”

 

She and her husband (neurosurgeon professor Wale Sulaiman) head RNZ Global: an international healthcare development, operations, and management company that they founded a few years ago and for which Sulaiman is Director.

Sulaiman received a degree in nursing from the University of Calgary, and she completed an M.Sc. in community health sciences at the University of Manitoba, where she wrote her thesis on The Impact of Social Network Amongst Injection Drug Users.

No stranger to ambitious endeavors; Sulaiman has also worked with the Public  Health Agency of Canada on project planning for programmes pertaining to the prevention of STIs, HIV, and hepatitis C, and she began her nursing career in Canada where she cut her teeth working in hospitals and as a Nurse Practitioner in remote communities in Northern Canada and the Canadian Arctic.

Recently, she added educator to her list of undertakings: she operates RNZ Healthcare Solutions, which is the education and training arm of RNZ Global and is currently tasked with training the nurses at the RNZ Occupational Hospital in Port Harcourt, Nigeria in innovative healthcare techniques.

A Trauma Certified Registered Nurse (TCRN), Sulaiman is a Course Director for the Emergency Nurses Association (ENA) Trauma Nursing Core Course (TNCC); in November, she taught the first TNCC ever offered in Nigeria— a course that teaches nurses how to deal with patients in a trauma situation.

RNZ Occupational Hospital A&E nurses in Port Harcourt, Nigeria: The first group of nurses to ever receive TNCC training in Nigeria. Photo Credit: RNZ Global

 

“My best experience as an educator in Nigeria is knowing each day that I am providing the same standard of health education and training that I provide in the US, in Nigeria. No cutting corners or ‘watering’ things down because I’m in Africa. I strongly believe that everybody deserves to have access to adequately trained and knowledgeable healthcare providers no matter what country they live in.”

 

Sulaiman is also a certified educator with the American Heart Association, where she teaches courses such as Basic Life Support (BLS), Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS), and Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS). Through her work with the American Heart Association, Sulaiman has discovered a passion for teaching the life-saving techniques of CPR the AED use.

When applied and used properly, an AED helps the heart get back to a regular beat if it’s beating erratically. Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) and an AED go hand in hand, and sometimes these methods are also used in conjunction with medication to improve a person’s chance of survival in the event of a cardiac arrest.

Sulaiman said that cardiac disease is the leading cause of death in most nations in the world, and she believes that “Everybody and anybody needs to have this type [CPR & AED] of training.” She aims to make AEDs available everywhere from shopping centres to investment firms.

Calling upon her diverse background and vast experience, she is on a mission to educate the masses. In the interview below, Sulaiman speaks to The Circular about her experiences in healthcare and the importance of CPR and AED training for everyone — not just medical professionals.

Patricia Sulaiman teaching CPR and AED techniques to staff of the Lagos State Signage and Advertisement Agency in Lagos, Nigeria. Photo Credit: RNZ Global

The Interview

TC – Why did you start working with AED machines?

PS – AEDs help to strengthen the chain of survival in the event of a cardiac arrest by shocking or “defibrillating” the heart back to a normal rhythm if need be. As an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse and an Instructor and Faculty with the American Heart Association, I have found it important to raise awareness and to teach people on the proper use of AEDs, particularly because cardiac disease is the leading cause of death in the world.

TC – Why should non-healthcare professionals learn how to use an AED?  Is it difficult to learn how to use one? 

PS – Simply put, a cardiac arrest can occur anywhere. In fact, most occur outside of a hospital setting (i.e. at home, work, school, etc.). Most public spaces (e.g. shopping centers, airports, etc.) in the Western world have an AED readily available.  AEDs are important because they strengthen the Chain of Survival.  When a person suffers a sudden cardiac arrest, their chance of survival decreases by 7% to 10% for each minute that passes without defibrillation. It is not difficult to learn how to use an AED, however, it’s important that one learns how to use it from a certified instructor.

TC – Some countries make it a law that civilians know how to perform first aid (CPR, AED) which countries are those? 

PS – All fifty states in the United States have enacted laws and/or regulations requiring that public gathering places have AEDs available. In some European countries,  legislation has been passed that authorizing the use of AED by a layperson. This legislation has resulted in a large number of AEDs being installed in public places such as shopping centers, airports, offices, government buildings, schools, health & sports clubs, transportation centers, daycare centers, and casinos. Most states (39) in the U.S. have made CPR training a high school graduation requirement.

Patricia Sulaiman teaching a CPR and AED class to students at Lycee Francais Louis Pasteur in Lagos, Nigeria. Photo Credit: RNZ Global

TC – How has your life and work experiences in Canada and the United States influenced your work in Nigeria?

PS – In contrast to the US and Canada, CPR and AED awareness amongst the general Nigerian population is still in its infancy. Hence, it has been quite exciting to be able to contribute to both the increased awareness and education to civilians from both the public and private sectors. As the most populated country in Africa, this is actually a public health matter, and the importance of as many people being CPR training certified and having AED awareness cannot be overemphasized.

TC – How has your past experience as a nurse influenced your teaching methods?

PS – Certainly, having seen CPR and the use of AEDs utilized on several occasions to save patients lives in hospitals has given me a practical first-hand experience of how important this technique is, and confirmation that it does indeed work. Hence, when I am teaching a CPR class, I am very particular about letting students know that CPR and AED use must be initiated as soon as possible.

TC – You teach BLS, ACLS, and TNCC what is your favorite subject/technique that you teach?

PS – Yes, I am a certified Instructor and Faculty affiliated with the Ochsner Community Training Center in New Orleans, USA. I am also a Course Director and certified instructor for the Emergency Nurses Association (ENA) Trauma Nursing Core Course (TNCC). I love teaching all of the courses equally and actually don’t have a favorite.

TC – You recently taught the first ever Trauma Nursing Core Course in Sub-Saharan Africa. In what ways will this impact the Sub-Saharan African region?

PS – In November 2018, the first TNCC taught in sub-Saharan Africa was taught to all of the A & E Nurses at the RNZ Occupational Hospital in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. This makes this facility the only hospital in the region that has all of their nurses TNCC certified! Most hospitals in the United States require all of their nurses who work in the Emergency Department to be TNCC certified. By having this course now available in sub-Saharan Africa, it will only contribute to elevating the standard care of available to people who are seeking medical care in the region. The ultimate purpose is to improve the level of care provided in emergency care settings, large and small, rural and urban. The ENA has recommended TNCC as the minimum required education for emergency nurses who care for trauma patients.

TC – What has been your best experience as an educator?

PS – My best experience as an educator in Nigeria is knowing each day that I am providing the same standard of health education and training that I provide in the US, in Nigeria. No cutting corners or ‘watering’ things down because I’m in Africa. I strongly believe that everybody deserves to have access to adequately trained and knowledgeable healthcare providers no matter what country they live in.

TC – You’ve accomplished a lot in Nigeria in such a short time. What are some of your future goals for RNZ Healthcare Solutions?

PS – Indeed, a lot has been accomplished by RNZ Healthcare Solutions in this past year, but there is still so much more in store! We look forward to offering new courses to both healthcare providers and lay-people in the upcoming year, and to ultimately become the premier destination for hands-on healthcare education and training in the region!

TC – Are there any plans to teach in other African Countries?

PS – Yes! We are excited to collaborate with other healthcare providers and educators in the region. The terrain is vast, and we certainly cannot accomplish all that we hope to achieve without forming partnerships and establishing relationships in Africa and beyond.

TC – When you are not pursuing your passion in various healthcare ventures, how do you like to spend your free time?

PS – I love to play tennis whenever I have the opportunity. It is a fantastic sport that is both physically and mentally challenging, and certainly helps keep my heart healthy!