Learn and Live

Hawthorne Bridge photo: jparadisi 2012

American Heart Association, are you messing with me?

I was a wee bambina sitting at the dinner table the first time I heard the acronym CPR. My father, a volunteer firefighter for the small town where we lived, certified that afternoon. I remember him saying, “It’s a terrible thing to need to do, but everyone should know how to do it,” and his words are true. Everyone should know CPR.

I got my first CPR card in high school, recerting off and on until becoming a nurse. Now, I recert (renew) every two years. All hospitals I have worked for in two different states require Registered Nurses to have current BLS certification. There is no grace period. If the card expires, the nurse cannot return to work until he or she has renewed their certification.

I love The Heart, however, few things swizzle an experienced nurse’s placid pool of confidence more than CPR recertification, aka, BLS (Basic Life Support). I know this, because I renewed my card last week. Everyone in the class expressed anxiety. Anxiety occurs because, every two years, we have to relearn breath to compression ratios, and how many compressions per minute. For one rescuer or two? Is the victim an adult or a child? The ratios are different for each. And what the hell is that little rhyme you’re supposed to repeat while changing positions with the other rescuer because you’re getting chest pains yourself from the exertion of doing (how many, again?) chest compressions? Don’t forget, you’re trying to save a person’s life while doing this.

Our instructor assured us changes occur only every five years, but it seems different every time. Not only for staff I work with: once, I was running behind two women runners on the Hawthorne Bridge, and overheard them talking about CPR, and how confusing all the numbers are to remember. I sprinted to them, asked if they were nurses. They were. We ran together for a while, commiserating over this albatross of our working lives.

So you can imagine my chagrin, last week when our instructors explained the changing numbers confuses so many health care professionals and lay people, they were not even attempting CPR outside of hospitals, for fear of doing it wrong. This led the AHA to research hands-only CPR. They found:

• Hands-Only CPR (CPR with just chest compressions) has been proven to be as effective as CPR with breaths in treating adult cardiac arrest victims.
• The American Heart Association has recommended Hands-Only CPR for adults since 2008.
As of June 2011

I support the American Heart Association listening to our concerns. I applaud its continual research, which saves lives. Everyone should know CPR.

All the same, does this mean, these past twenty-five years I’ve been a nurse, whether it was one or two breaths between compressions has never really mattered?

American Heart Association, are you just messing with me?

To find a BLS/CPR class near you, click on this link.