Do you have the skills to save a life?

Do you have the skills to save a life?

Posted by tracyhogan on September 13, 2012

Did you know that less than 10 percent of our population are prepared to commence CPR on a stranger? 

Why is that? Many people fear they will “do it wrong” or “do more harm”.

Firstly, wind the clock back only a couple of years; you’re sitting in a first aid class and you have just finished folding neat creases in triangular bandages for 2 hours. The trainer then announces “after the break you will be doing your CPR assessment”.

By now you want to leave; you have been there all day, the trainer has gone over and over with the class that to do effective CPR is difficult and only well-trained first aiders can save lives.

Before the practical exam your trainer points out what you must do to pass this section of the course. They say: “OK, remember 1/3 of the chest depth at a rate of 100 per minute for adults; locate the anatomical land marks; measure to make sure your hands are in the exact position; don’t forget the rates for a baby and the rates for a child; not too fast; check pulse every 3 minutes; adult pulse is the carotid, for baby the apex pulse; do not press too hard; if they have a pulse and you press on their chest you will make them worse; don’t forget to get it right or you might get sued; remember the pistol grip and jaw thrust; now the ratio of breaths to compressions for children is...” and so on.

I’m not sure about you but I’m getting confused just writing this stuff! So, you’re doing the practical, you’re nervous, trying to remember the rates and ratios, you get it wrong, you fail.

Imagine for one moment if we taught our children to brush their teeth the same way; i.e. all children have to attend a nationally accredited teeth brushing course. “Okay kids now pick up the tooth brush...no Johnny not with your left hand...place 1.2 cm of paste on the brush, squeeze it slow, not too fast, Johnny slow down...hold the brush tipped slightly forward not backwards.” What nonsense this would be; teeth brushing is a basic life-skill. Can you imagine if 30 years ago someone introduced this method, where do you think our oral hygiene would be today? Answer - exactly where CPR is today!

Let’s wind the clock forward to the present and bring CPR back as a life-skill and not something to fear. Over the past 10 years several studies have explored some basic questions about CPR.

• Why aren’t people prepared to do CPR?

• Are we basing CPR on any modern science?

• What is the most effective way to teach CPR?

An international study (ILCOR, International Liaison Committee on Resuscitation) came up with some conclusive answers; one in particular; was “simplify the process of performing CPR to make it easier for lay people to do”. Science backs this up. You’re probably saying well this is not rocket science; you’re right and I agree. So, what now?

How do we encourage people to perform CPR on strangers? The answer is a little complex but with some basic common sense we can achieve this.

Firstly, First Aid Training Providers could address the way CPR is taught and embrace the new 2010 World Resuscitation Councils guidelines. All Australian Resuscitation Councils have met and given feedback on the soon to be released guidelines. A meeting to endorse and promote the new guidelines will be taking place in early December.

Secondly, teach mental preparation. Let me explain a bit about the philosophy behind teaching mental preparation before I go into the clinical CPR changes.

If you simplify the teaching methodology of CPR so that the learner feels comfortable and at ease, with no fear then the skill is more likely to be retained and, more importantly, more likely to be put into practice.

Some training providers across the country have focused on the technical side of CPR and forgot about the human side. In many instances this is due to the facilitator being classroom taught themselves, lacking any real-life practical emergency medical experience. They do not have real-life experiences to draw on to assist in facilitating the practical application of this skill. It does not mean their lessons are of lesser value, but may be potentially limited from a practical perspective.

It is not just the skill it is the behaviour adopted around the skill. This is just as important as the skill itself.Let me explain. In an emergency it is how the individual acts and performs (their behaviour) that will make the difference between life and death, not just the physical skill of performing CPR.

We need to also teach people how to behave in an emergency as well as the practical application to adequately prepare a person to render aid.

If first aid training students are faced with complicated skills and knowledge, the situation will remain the same. The individual may be overwhelmed with fear and unable or unwilling to act.

How do we train people that in an emergency they may experience panic, anxiety, shock or even disbelief, then reassure people that these feelings are normal? If you paint the picture and set the scene of what to expect and how to behave when faced with the emergency they have some mental preparation to put skills into practice.

Let’s look at the classroom setting - nice clean floor, and nice clean manikins; do CPR; get the tick of approval then leave; what part of mental preparation does this fit into? Now I’m not saying we do mock disasters or show gory pictures; I am saying teach mental preparation, followed by simplified skills.

Okay, so let’s prepare people the best we can, then drop in the new simplified skills and most of all the new simplified teaching methodology.

Let’s break the skill down:

A stranger collapses in front of you; they are lying on the floor not moving. Make sure it is safe, look for any danger; we would have prepared you before we do the skill that dangers may be lurking in any emergency situation.

Talk to the stranger, “Mate, are you okay?” If they don’t answer back they are either deaf or unconscious.Give them a bit of a tap on the shoulder; still NO Response? Then either send for help or you call for help.That means call for an ambulance!

So next is to open up their gob - that’s tilt their head back to open the airway. What you are doing by tilting someone’s head back is lifting the tongue off the back of their throat and this keeps the airway open.

Next is to look at their chest. Pin point the middle if you can, then stick your hands on the chest and start pushing up and down. Bingo - CPR!

If you are so inclined (up to you), after 30 pushes on the chest stick your mouth over theirs and blow in some air twice (2 times). If you’re not keen on putting your mouth on a stranger then keep pushing up and down (compressions) until the paramedics arrive.

Simple? It sure is! CPA Group calls this Fast Aid – Life saving skills in a flash. Let’s pass the word around that CPR is simple!

To conclude I would like to dispel another myth/fear and hopefully reduce it even more, so you will render aid if needed.

Let’s have a look at the “Good Samaritan.”.

First aiders need not fear litigation if they come to the aid of a fellow human in need. No “Good Samaritan” in Australia has ever been successfully sued for the consequences of rendering assistance to a person in need. A “Good Samaritan” is defined in legislation as a person acting without expecting of financial or other reward for providing assistance.

If you decide to assist a stranger and utilise your basic skills of performing CPR you are acting in good faith and will not be sued. All Australian States and Territories have enacted Statutes which provide some measure of pro­tection for the “Good Samaritan”. They are required to act with good faith and without recklessness.

Remember putting this simple skill into practise can save a life; if you act in good faith the law will protect you.

CPA Group offer a number of medical training courses including first aid and CPR. For more information, please visit our website: http://cpagroup.com.au/courses/medical/ 

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