Over the past eight years that I have been working as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), I cannot count how many times I’ve arrived on scene to a pulseless patient and discovered that no one had started CPR. CPR, or cardiopulmonary resuscitation, is the only procedure that offers individuals a chance at surviving a sudden cardiac arrest (the heart stops beating properly). Unfortunately, the American Heart Association (AHA) reports that only 30 percent of non-medical personnel are actually trained in this life-saving procedure. Considering that 88 percent of cardiac arrests occur at home, this fact could negatively impact the survival rate of the individual in arrest.
As an EMT, I’ve responded to multiple patients in cardiac arrest and, in the vast majority of cases, CPR was not started before EMS arrival. The outcome for my patients? Death. Knowing what I do about CPR statistics, I cannot help but wonder in these situations whether initiating resuscitation sooner could’ve saved my patients. The procedure is simple, yet it plays a pivotal role in survival from cardiac arrest. To that end, I also find myself wondering why more people aren’t trained in CPR. If outcomes and statistics are greatly improved when armed with this technique, why isn’t it universal knowledge?
Cardiac Arrest Statistics
According to the AHA, the survival rate of sudden cardiac arrest patients is less than eight percent. In fact, with every minute that passes after a person’s heart stops, the likelihood of survival decreases by 10 percent. Early initiation of CPR, however, could potentially save an additional 4,000 lives. For this reason alone, anyone and everyone can—and should—be responsible for starting CPR prior to EMS arrival.
CPR classes are offered everywhere, and the lessons are extremely accessible for all learners. Many will be glad to know that the ventilations (or the mouth-to-mouth components) have been eliminated. Known as hands-only CPR, this form of resuscitation is as effective as traditional CPR and, because it is less invasive, everyone can feel confident about starting CPR even if they have had minimal experience doing so on an actual patient.
With hands-only CPR being promoted by the AHA since 2008, the question lingers as to why this life-saving skill has not been taught to the majority of the population and, more importantly, to our children. Several videos that are less than two minutes long could teach this valuable technique. Simple and straight-forward, the AHA offers kits that are tailored to grades 6-12. This does not, however, mean that younger children cannot learn hands-only CPR, too.
Current Legislation Regarding CPR in Schools
As of 2017, the American Heart Association has worked to pass state laws that assure students in 34 states are trained in CPR before graduating high school. This equates to 2 million adolescents who are “CPR smart.” These individuals are not only equipped with the skills to perform in the event of an emergency, but they are also members of a well-informed generation that will hopefully pass on these skills and knowledge about the importance of CPR to peers, family members and others with whom they interact.
Now all that remains is to on-board the remaining states, putting positive pressure on them to join in the mission of creating a community of life savers.
CPR is just three little letters and only involves one basic step, but these three little letters spell out the difference between life and death. Consider educating yourself further on how to save a life by visiting heart.org.