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During the time it takes to make a 911 call to help arriving, minutes matter. Recently, an educational movement has launched in the City of Pittsburgh in partnership with UPMC to empower bystanders to take proactive measures in saving lives until professional medical help arrives on scene. Altogether, Minutes Matter trains communities throughout the entire city to value basic emergency knowledge that will ultimately help save lives in a time of crisis.

Cheryl Rickens, EMS Specialist for the AED Program in UPMC’s Prehospital Care Department has helped lead the way in promoting basic emergency education. Her vast experience includes 30 years of first-hand knowledge by being a bedside nurse for 15 years, then diving into prehospital care for the last 15 years. Rickens says, “I was destined to be a nurse. My mother was a nurse and my father was a police officer in public safety.”

She continues, “My cousin and I would play doll house as kids, and I pretended to be a nurse as my cousin pretended to be a teacher. Funny thing is that she became a teacher as I became a nurse as adults. Our childhood dreams became a reality.”

Her nursing passion includes cardiology, starting the AED program, becoming an American Heart Association instructor and continuing to teach life-saving guidance to those willing to learn through Minutes Matter. At first, the program started as a city initiative and UPMC joined as a united force. It provides access to basic emergency information and education about life-saving interventions.

Rickens says, “Also in the city, UPMC has become a huge partner in Stop the Bleed Campaign. Along with the City of Pittsburgh EMS, Hands-Only CPR and how to use an AED has been offered but now expanded with the Minutes Matter program and includes highlights from the Stop the Bleed program and how to deal with an opioid overdose.”

Rickens says, “The city’s chief of staff Daniel Gilman portrayed our vision nicely. No matter where a yinzer [Pittsburgher] is in the world, they will be able to save a life. Our initiative aims to keep everyone safe.”

The goal of the program includes increasing the survival rate among patients due to the promotion of knowledge in basic emergency medicine interventions and techniques. It empowers individuals to take action in a time of need. Rickens adds, “We are the city of bridges, and we want to bridge the help needed between calling 911 and the paramedics arriving. During that time, the knowledge from our program will be instrumental in saving someone’s life during a major medical issue.”

Leading programs like Minutes Matter helps to integrate basic, life-saving techniques across cities in the commitment of better care for all. Rickens’ destiny has always followed the path in public safety, even through marriage and family life. She says, “I married into EMS and have been around it my entire life; my three kids have pursued EMS life work in two becoming P.A.’s and one as an Eagle Scout. It’s an honor to leave a legacy for the future of public safety.” All in all, helping to pioneer Minutes Matter and igniting her passion in every step of life has created a safer future for all.

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