The Nurses Lounge

Every Beat Matters: Why Learning CPR Can Save a Life

It’s the saving lives for me!

We all know or heard of someone who has experienced the unfortunate event of a cardiac arrest. In fact, did you know that in 2015, approximately 357,000 people experienced a cardiac arrest OUTSIDE of the hospital in the United States, and about 70%ā€“90% of those individuals died before reaching the hospital?1 Now a leading cause of death in the U.S., cardiac arrest occurs when the heart has a sudden electrical malfunction, causing an irregular rhythm and unconsciousness due to lack of a pulse and oxygen to vital organs, like the brain. Sudden cardiac arrest is often used interchangeably with “heart attack”, but the two aren’t exactly the same. A heart attack occurs when oxygen-rich blood flow to the heart is blocked by a blood clot or plaque and the heart muscle itself begins to die due to lack of oxygen, which can ultimately lead to a sudden cardiac arrest if not treated.2 Unfortunately, sudden cardiac arrest can happen anywhere, at anytime, and to anyone—adult, child, or infant. Conditions include choking on an object or food, severe allergic reactions, extremely high/low blood sugars, cardiac arrythmias, traumatic accidents, and much more. Victims can suffer from pre-existing medical conditions or be completely healthy. Therefore, anyone trained to recognize and initiate treatment in this emergency situation can be the difference between life and death.


So what exactly is the first line of treatment for someone experiencing a cardiac arrest? The answer is CPR. CPR, or cardiopulmonary resuscitation, is the cyclic combination of chest compressions and breaths that help circulate blood and oxygen throughout the body until an electrical shock is administered from an automated external defibrillator (AED). This electrical shock is used to help correct the lethal irregular rhythm into viable pulse. Sounds scary right? It very well can be in a high intensity situation. However, you don’t have to be a healthcare professional to be certified to administer CPR with an AED. In fact, many publishers of CPR training (e.g. American Heart Association (AHA), American Red Cross, etc.) create it to be understood by any lay person wanting to be knowledgeable or certified. Even the AED itself has been improved over the years to be quite simple to use, despite many people’s hesitation to actually use it. Most AEDs nowadays even have voice prompts and audiotones that tell you exactly what to do and how fast to perform chest compressions. They even come equipped with a face shield to provide a barrier for the rescuer to give breaths to the victim. This has been extremely beneficial in the number of lives saved over the years, so much that according to the AHA, prompt and proper use of CPR with an AED has doubled (or even tripled) the survival rates of a person experiencing cardiac arrest 3. Hopefully, successful CPR with an AED can restore consciousness and a normalized pulse until the person can received more advanced treatment from healthcare providers.


While most healthcare workers have to receive this life-saving training as a part of their organization’s annual or biannual compliance, there are several other non-healthcare related organizations and professions who have made use of CPR training. For example, many corporations now make AEDs available throughout the building and designate trained first responders (i.e., security) to use it until 911 arrives. Actually, here are a few non-healthcare related professions that have opted to be CPR certified to better serve those around them:

  • Teachers
  • Babysitters
  • Lifeguards
  • Camp Counselors
  • Church groups
  • Fitness trainers
  • Cashiers
  • and more!

CPR, first aid, and safety trainings are often taught by institutions affiliated with certifying bodies like AHA or American Red Cross, who both have a history of researching, revising, and publishing health-related content. In the past, if you were interested in being certified in CPR with an AED, you only had the option to attend long in-person classes split into multiple days. Once you completed the course with a certified trainer, you would be mailed a physical card showing your certification. Nowadays, courses are available in-person, fully online, or a combination of both, and you can even receive ecards that are readily available online same day. Depending on your learning style or the prices offered, you should choose which course best suites you. Many places offer one-on-one or group instruction, which can also affect pricing and class duration. Some organizations make it a fun optional team activity or require it for compliance training, and even some cover the cost of the course. CPR certifications normally lasts for two years, so it is important to set reminders to renew it before it lapses to maintain compliance.

Final Thoughts

In the healthcare setting, more variations of CPR could be administered if needed including Basic Life Support (BLS), Advance Cardiac Life Support (ALCS), Pediatric Emergency Assessment, Recognition and Stabilization (PEARS), and Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS). These skills are separate certifications and are administered by healthcare workers more trained in cardiac rhythms, medications, advanced airways, and infant/child resuscitation. If you are a healthcare professional, check with your employer or licensing agency to see which training is required. However, as previously stated, anyone can be trained and certified in basic CPR with an AED. Who knows, you could help save the life of your loved one at the family cookout or the bystander in the grocery line. Your assistance could make the difference.

Photo from Case Western Reserve University

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