UE Nursing Faculty Member Jerrilee LaMar Named Red Cross Hero


For being an everyday hero on many levels — from coming to a family’s aid during an emergency to impacting health education on a national level — University of Evansville nursing faculty member Jerrilee LaMar has been named a Red Cross Hero.

LaMar, assistant professor of nursing in the Dunigan Family Department of Nursing and Health Sciences, received the “Educator Hero” recognition. She was one of 12 people honored in the annual Heroes award program, which recognizes everyday heroes in the 33-county service area of the Evansville-Wabash Valley Region’s Red Cross chapter.

LaMar received the award Thursday, May 17, at a banquet at Casino Aztar in downtown Evansville.

“Jerrilee is an excellent educator,” said Amy Hall, chair of the Dunigan Family Department of Nursing and Health Sciences, in a video that was featured at the awards banquet. “She inspires students and others around her to go out of their way to do their best. She exemplifies that with her actions every day.”

Among LaMar’s heroic actions is her leadership of a nationwide study that has changed the way many colleges and universities teach CPR to their nursing students. The National League of Nursing issued a call for schools to apply for the study, and LaMar seized the opportunity, eager for the chance to make a difference in the quality of nursing education around the country.

The NLN chose 10 schools with associate, diploma, or baccalaureate nursing programs — including UE — and asked them to teach CPR to their students using one of two techniques. One group completed the training in a four-hour, instructor-led course; the other used a self-directed, computer-based course that included learning and practice on a voice advisory manikin.

After that training, all students were randomly assigned to either a control group with no further practice or to an experimental group, which practiced CPR six minutes each month for the 12 months of the study. LaMar led the collection and reporting of data for the dozens of UE students who participated.

The study found that the students who practiced for only six minutes each month either maintained or improved their skills over the duration of the study. The students who did not practice beyond their initial training had a significant loss of skills within as little as three months.

Under LaMar’s leadership, the study demonstrated the vital importance of ensuring that nursing students retain knowledge about CPR. The findings of the study have been incorporated into the curriculum at UE, where students have additional practice time during labs and still use the manikin from the study to practice their skills regularly. The study’s implications were so compelling that hospitals and health care providers, including St. Mary’s Health System in Evansville, have also adopted similar technology and training.

Beyond her significant role in the national study, LaMar lives what she teaches. She carries a pocket mask, even when traveling abroad, in case she encounters an emergency and needs to administer CPR. She offers free CPR classes to UE faculty members and consistently receives outstanding evaluations from her students, many of whom say they have been inspired to adopt healthier behaviors after taking her courses.

Perhaps LaMar’s most heroic moment came when she was walking into a nursing clinical at St. Mary’s early one morning. A passing driver rolled down her window and shouted, “I need help!” As several others ignored the driver, LaMar hurried to the car and realized that the driver’s husband was in cardiac arrest. She rushed the couple to the emergency room and sat with the woman as ER physicians worked to save her husband’s life.

“I believe all nurse educators are heroes every day. We’re always preparing people to take care of other people,” Hall said. “(Jerrilee) has taught a lot of people how to save the lives of others.”