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Fear & CPR-Trained Bystanders

Swor R, Khan I, Domeier R, et al: CPR training and CPR performance: Do CPR-trained bystanders perform CPR? Academic Emergency Medicine. 13(6):596 601, 2006.

The Science

The authors conducted phone interviews with bystanders who called 9-1-1 for a cardiac arrest victim. The bystanders were asked several questions regarding their actions related to performing or not performing CPR. The authors made contact with 684 (78.1 percent) of 868 cardiac arrest bystanders. Seventy percent were family members of the victim, 37 percent had more than a high-school education, and 54 percent had been taught CPR at some time. Twenty-one percent of the bystanders immediately started CPR, and in 34 percent of the cases someone started CPR prior to EMS arrival. The bystander was twice as likely to perform CPR if the collapse was witnessed, more than six times more likely if they were CPR trained, and three times more likely if the arrest occurred in a public area. Of the CPR trained bystanders who did not perform CPR, 37 percent stated that they simply panicked, 9 percent were worried they wouldn t perform it correctly, and only 1 percent objected to performing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

The Street

This study confirms many of our beliefs regarding the value of CPR training. Clearly, bystanders trained in CPR are more likely to perform it, but the surprising finding was that fear and panic were the major deterrents to performing CPR by these very same trained bystanders. Although the physical task of performing CPR has become better defined and we have more CPR training programs being delivered than ever before, it appears we re forgetting to educate potential citizen rescuers of the emotional component of being involved in such an event. We re quick to tell them how proud they ll be if they save a life, but we must also psychologically prepare them to remain calm and take command of the scene. Hopefully, this study will change the way we educate so there will be no barriers to performing CPR when the need arises.

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