How can we increase bystander CPR participation? -

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation or CPR is a technique or procedure that helps revive a person who has collapsed sudden because of a cardiac arrest, or have had near-drowning, electrocution or similar accident. The updated sequence of CPR is CAB – Compression, airway, and breathing. Through CPR, a person or rescuer gives chest compression and breaths into the victim, in order to revive him or make his heart start beating again.

Cardiac arrest emergencies take place most of the time – 80% – out of the hospital (usually within residential confines) Taking instant action is a mandatory rule to curb such an emergency. Giving CPR within 2 minutes becomes a matter of life and death. It is in these conditions, that a rescuer who needs to perform CPR on the concerning victim of cardiac arrest is a bystander, who most of the time happens to be related to the victim. Bystander CPR is crucial. More than reviving a victim, it helps in buying enough time for the arrival of advanced medical assistance.

However, number of bystander CPR rate is quite low.

Why the rate is low?

There are two reasons –

  • Reluctance to perform CPR on a stranger
  • Fear of causing serious repercussion, which might aggravate the already intense situation.

Reluctance to perform CPR on a stranger

Reluctance to perform CPR on strangers is the first most important factor that is bringing down the rate of bystander CPR. This reluctance stems out of lack of knowledge and awareness.

CPR guidelines keep changing on a frequent basis. In the past, chest compression and giving mouth-to-mouth resuscitation was a mandatory rule for performing CPR. Chest compressions – well anyone will be open to give to victims, who are strangers, but giving mouth-to-mouth resuscitation is something that prevents bystanders to perform CPR.

Good news is that the current CPR guidelines do not administer or recommend the use of mouth-to-mouth breath as a part of CPR. Giving chest compression or using hands-only CPR is effective. This change is a result of adverse studies and research undertaken by experts.

When a person suffers from cardiac arrest, his/her brain has enough amount of oxygen left for survival. What the person requires within those 2 minutes’ time-frame is enough force for circulating and enabling the blood to flow to brain, heart and other organs of the victim’s body. This can only be done through rapid and forceful chest compression.

Fear of causing serious repercussion, which might aggravate the already intense situation

Fear of causing serious repercussion to the already intense situation is the second factor that is causing bystander CPR rate to hit bottom low. Bystanders, as mentioned right above are mostly people who are related to the victim. When you witness someone close to you collapse and become unconscious, you are bound to get flustered and overwhelmed. Some even will not even use a finger to nudge the victim out of fear, leave alone give chest compression in a forceful and effective manner. This reason is also same for bystanders who are not known to the victims. The fear of breaking a rib or two of the victim, when applying force during chest compressions, is what scares off bystanders and prevent them from performing CPR.

How to solve these issues?

The first and the most important thing to do, is educate and inform everyone about CPR and its updated guidelines. Through proper knowledge about the techniques of CPR only, a bystander will be more than confident to perform the same. Furthermore, when someone gets to learn that hands-only CPR is recommended by the leading organizations – American Heart Association and American Red Cross – they will not might at all to perform CPR on strangers, as they will not have to give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

The second thing to do is make bystanders realize that giving forceful chest compressions only will help in circulating the blood and reviving the person. They should not worry about breaking any bones or hurting the victim. Because at the end of the day, when a person is revived and brought to life, a broken bone here and there, will not hurt him/her (so to speak!)

It is for these reasons that more and more organizations, employers, communities and agencies are coming forward and encouraging their members to take up CPR training programs and get certification in it. Some organizations are also making it a mandatory rule to get CPR certification for retaining or acquiring employment in the same.

The conclusion is that when 80% cardiac arrest incidents take place outside the hospital or healthcare premises and when regular human beings or bystanders are in charge of controlling the situation, it becomes only mandatory for every one of us as responsible citizens and members of our communities to learn CPR and different other protocols of first aid, in order to handle any kind of medical emergency, thereby saving a life!


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