Jennifer Balarezo, left, uses specially made mannequins to teach students CPR.
Jennifer Balarezo, 34
Title: Owner, GOTCPR LLC
Salary: $79,000 (company earned $122,000)
What She Does: Balarezo teaches people how to save lives.
An emergency medical technician (EMT) since 1999, she uses CPR and other lifesaving techniques in her work. CPR also played a role in a defining moment of Balarezo’s life. In December 2003, her father, who was suffering from terminal lung cancer, went into cardiac arrest at home. Balarezo called 911 and performed CPR until emergency services arrived, but her father’s body had shut down so much that he couldn’t be saved. In the aftermath, Balarezo realized her training as an EMT helped her stay calm during a crisis. It gave her a new goal: “I want to be able to help people feel somewhat secure in how to react in an emergency,” she says.
Since May 2007, she and her staff of three instructors plus four freelancers have been offering training in CPR, first aid and Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS), as well as the pediatric versions of those techniques, to individuals and groups around the metro area. They work with new parents as well as personal trainers, doctors and nurses who need to renew their CPR certifications.
Classes, which are based on the American Heart Association’s (AHA) guidelines for CPR, last one to eight hours and cost from $65 to $300, depending on the type of skill taught. Instructors guide students step-by-step through lifesaving techniques. Balarezo uses mannequins whose chests rise and fall just as a real person’s would when the breathing techniques are performed correctly. She also has defibrillator trainers identical to the real thing that don’t administer a shock.
GOTCPR’s steady clients include corporations such as Gold’s Gym and area hospitals such as Inova Fairfax, George Washington University and Johns Hopkins University.
Would You Want This Job: Balarezo sets her teaching schedule, which allows her to work as a lead EMT with her own ambulance and crew for the Dale City, Va., Volunteer Fire Department. She’s also taking classes to become a physician’s assistant. With her schedule so full, the pace can be grueling. “We do anywhere from one class a day to four or five classes,” Balarezo says.
Being around people who want to help others perks her up. “I really, really enjoy the stories that people share, even if it’s tragic,” she says. “I just love to listen, and I love to share because I can completely empathize.”
And the money is good. Balarezo says she can earn in a day what she made in two weeks at the Vienna credit union where she worked for nine years before starting GOTCPR.
How She Got this Job: Balarezo credits GOTCPR’s success to her experience as an EMT and her decision to hire only firefighters, EMTs or paramedics as CPR instructors.
“To teach CPR or first aid, I think that you should be in a setting where you’re actually doing this. It’s different if you’re being taught by someone who’s never actually done CPR versus us, because this is what we do,” she says.
Balarezo became certified as an EMT in 1999 through Northern Virginia Community College (NVCC) and joined the fire department in 2010. In between, she earned a bachelor’s in biology from George Mason University, graduating in 2009.
She also taught CPR and first-aid classes at NVCC from January 2005 until she started GOTCPR. For advice and business questions, she consults with her AHA Training Center coordinator.
How You Can Get This Job: To become certified to teach CPR and first aid, check out instructor courses at AHA, the American Red Cross, EMS Safety Services and Safety First Training. Courses cost about $450.