Cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR, saves lives. It’s a simple procedure that uses chest compressions and rescue ventilation to keep oxygen flowing through the body of someone who has suffered a cardiac arrest.
The goal is to protect the brain from lack of air by taking over the circulatory duties of the heart until advanced life support can be started.
According to the American Heart Association, cardiac arrest is responsible for the death of nearly half a million Americans annually and has a higher mortality rate worldwide than influenza, pneumonia, HIV, gun violence, house fires, car accidents, and breast, prostate, and colorectal cancers combined.
Data from 2014 shows that while 90 percent of those who are not in the hospital when they suffer cardiac arrest die, 45 percent survive when immediate CPR is performed. When a heart stops beating, taking action can double or even triple someone’s chances of survival.
For those in the health care field, CPR certification is vital. It’s required by most employers at some level and is expected for medical assistants and emergency personnel like EMTs. However, anyone can learn to save lives with CPR training, and its benefits extend far beyond the obvious.
CPR looks complicated, but it isn’t. In fact, it’s easier than ever. Training has evolved to eliminate the confusing compression-to-breath ratios of the past, and compression-only CPR can be learned by laypeople in a matter of minutes.
At the health care provider level, however, there are three distinct levels of certification: (1) Basic Life Support, or BLS, (2) Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support, or ACLS, and (3) Pediatric Advanced Life Support, known as PALS.
Basic Life Support (BLS)
BLS courses cover basic chest compressions, rescue breathing, and use of automated external defibrillators, or AEDs, for adults, infants, and children. This is the lowest level of CPR recommended for health care professionals and is appropriate for low-risk environments such as doctors’ offices.
Laypeople are also encouraged to seek this level of training, especially if they work in childcare or other positions where health emergencies occur such as schools, beaches, or other outdoor recreational sites.
Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support (ACLS)
ACLS certification classes build on basic CPR skills with advanced techniques that improve outcomes in adult patients experiencing certain conditions, such as heart dysrhythmias and acute coronary syndrome. This level is a must for emergency service personnel and medical assistants working in acute settings, such as hospitals.
Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS)
PALS is a natural extension of ACLS as it applies to children and prepares students for pediatric emergencies. It’s a good choice for medical professionals working with children.
The type of CPR certification recommended for health care providers depends in large part on where they are employed, but there are few limits on training. Higher certification not only helps the user be better prepared for emergencies at home, at work, or away, but it also offers other benefits that may be less tangible but are just as important.
The Intangible Benefits of CPR Training and Certification
CPR training teaches more than just hands-on lifesaving skills, it empowers individuals to act in difficult situations and reinforces the soft skills needed for personal and career success. Consider how CPR makes health care providers both work and life ready.
CPR Benefit 1: Builds Confidence
Anyone can learn to perform basic CPR by watching a video at home, but it’s the comprehensive training and certification process that give health care providers the courage to use their skills in an emergency. That’s because training is not passive.
There’s classroom time, and an instructor reviews everything in the manual students need to know to perform CPR at the desired level. But certification requires a hands-on demonstration of the procedure using models that simulate the human body.
Emergency scenarios are presented in class, and that gives students the opportunity to view potential CPR situations that are not in a vacuum, but more like they might occur in real life. They’re encouraged to go through the motions of a crisis, from assessing the nearby environment for safety and calling for emergency help to setting up gear and using personal protective equipment.
Practice models feel realistic and show students the amount of strength required to perform effective chest compressions, something that takes most people by surprise.
Most importantly, instructors pose what-ifs and give students the chance to test their knowledge, challenge their assumptions, and learn tips from a professional.
Emergencies are tough, they’re loud, confusing, and messy. CPR training gives students the confidence to act in stressful situations. In-person training takes a commitment of a day or two to complete, and it may seem like hard work, but ultimately, self-confidence isn’t born, it’s made through practice.
CPR Benefit 2: Demonstrates and Promotes Responsibility
The American Heart Association reports that only 32 percent of people who have a cardiac arrest outside a hospital are fortunate enough to have someone nearby to perform CPR. Of these, more than 90 thousand are saved.
Health care providers have a responsibility to meet the emergency needs of the clients they serve, but as respected members of the community, they also have considerable influence over public health, and their example matters. Who else might have another chance at life if just one more person followed the leader and became certified in CPR?
CPR Benefit 3: Forges Leadership
Performing CPR is a dynamic process. It requires hands-on know-how, but also the ability to delegate tasks and manage the type of high pressure situations that don’t happen every day, even in health care.
Team leaders must direct others who may not be trained, while calming family and managing the entire process. The first time it happens to a new medical assistant, it’s always an eye-opening experience. But being able to practice CPR skills in a classroom environment gives health care providers an edge and helps them be effective leaders when the time comes.
CPR Benefit 4: Looks Great on a Résumé
In any health care environment, advanced CPR certifications are valued. They demonstrate an applicant’s personal initiative and sense of responsibility and signal both a strong sense of self-confidence and leadership potential.
The Future of CPR Training and Certification
As technology and understanding of the human cardiovascular system improve, the need for CPR training grows. Schools and public venues are adding AEDs to their emergency kits, and employers are looking at CPR training to protect staff. The missing link, however, remains a push for workforce education.
According to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, more than half of employees don’t know where to find an AED at work, and for the 10 thousand people who will experience a cardiac arrest on the job this year, that’s bad news. The good news is that employers are now recognizing the value of CPR training and the soft skills it helps to develop.
Millions of people are certified annually to perform CPR, but health care providers need to pave the way forward for public education both through example and spreading the word that CPR saves lives. With CPR certification, everyone can be a first responder.
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Hunter Business School offers diploma programs in Medical Assistant, Medical Office Administration, Medical Billing and Coding, Radiologic Technology, and Diagnostic Medical Sonography.
Some of these diploma programs can be completed in as little as three months or as long as 23 months depending on the program offered. These diploma programs prepare students for entry-level positions in physicians’ offices, hospitals, clinics, long-term care facilities, and other health care facilities that are employing the growing number of medical professionals.
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