Superhuman might be the description of how someone feels when holding a newly-earned CPR card in his/her hand. Very few other training programs teach skills that can directly affect the lives of others like a CPR class. Typically the size of a business-card, what can this piece of paper do, though? Go ahead…lock yourself out of the house and see if you can use it to pick your way back in. Show up to an exclusive nightclub, flash your piece of lifesaving bling, and see if you’re immediately escorted inside. Perhaps you might keep it in your wallet on top of your driver’s license to find out if it might get you out of a speeding ticket. Odds are, your CPR certification card won’t help you in situations such as these. What, then, is the real power of a CPR certification card?
Who Cares About the Card?
Your ability to save a life doesn’t rest solely in the fact that you have a certification card on-hand. In fact, many lives have been saved by people who were not certified but had received either formal or informal training in the past. Who, then, has an interest in your certification? The answer is governments, insurance companies, employers and any organization that has an ethical responsibility to protect the welfare of its workers and patrons. Certification provides documentable evidence that bystanders have been trained to help in the event of an emergency.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, provides regulation and accountability in the area of occupational safety, including CPR certification. OSHA requires employers to have a trained responder “readily available” on-site to respond when needed. State health departments also further define who should be certified in CPR. Paramedics licensed by the state Department of Public Health and Safety may be required to not only be certified but to have their certification card on their person any time they are on-duty.
By requiring certification, employers and organizations are ensuring that they are meeting the requirements of these governing authorities. Failure to be in compliance can be very costly in the form of penalties and work-stoppages. More importantly, failure to have capable personnel on-site increases the risk of preventable death or chronic injury. Certification tells others that an employer is compliant, but what about you? What does your certification say about you?
Your Certification Card Defines You
I’m not proposing that your CPR card tells the world who you are as an individual, but it does tell us about your experience and abilities. A reported seven out of ten Americans feel helpless to act in the event of an emergency. Let that sink in. Seven out of your ten closest friends wouldn’t be able to help you if your life depended on it. Your certification card defines you as someone who has:
- Been trained to know and perform lifesaving skills
- Demonstrated your proficiency in performing those skills
- Proof from a certifying authority that affirms your ability
In essence, it is a piece of paper stating that, on the date you were certified, you knew what to do, when to do it and proved that you could.
What Your CPR Card Does Not Say About You
Your CPR card says that you know what to do, but it does not tell us that you will. Studies tell us that less than half of out-of-hospital witnessed cardiac arrests receive bystander CPR prior to EMS arrival. What is happening with the other half? The answer is inaction.
In order for people to act, their willingness to take action must be greater than the perceived obstacles that face them. Many reasons people give for a lack of action at the scene of an emergency include:
- Fear of disease transmission
- Fear of legal liability
- Fear of doing skills incorrectly
- Fear of hurting the victim
In a word, inaction comes down to fear. One of the reasons “Hands-Only CPR” was developed was because certified responders knew what to do, but were afraid of providing mouth-to-mouth breathing, resulting in the responder not attempting resuscitation at all.
As CPR instructors, part of our mission is to ease the sense of intimidation from the aforementioned fears. In contrast, we work to heighten the sense of urgency to act when seconds count while always keeping the welfare and safety of the responder in mind. Ultimately, though, the decision to take action rests with the responder. So, while your CPR certification says that you “can,” it doesn’t necessarily mean that you “will.”
Going Above and Beyond Mere Certification
Your CPR card is both a symbol and assertion that you would know what to do, and are able to do so, but that’s about the extent of its capabilities. The real power is not found in the card itself, but found in the resolve of the card-holder. When you have a genuine concern for others, confidence in your ability and the willingness to act, you are placed among the 44% of those who not only know when and how to help, but are ready and willing to step up to the plate and possibly save a life…a life that, statistically, may be a friend or loved one. And that…is superhuman!