So – you finished your CPR certification class and have your nice, crisp new and official CPR card in hand (or e-card if you so choose). You have the training and confidence you need to help save a life in an emergency. The question remains, “but am I ready to respond?” The CPR and AED training curriculum you received provides a wonderful foundation for you to learn the psychomotor skills of compressions, airway, and breathing as well as the application of an AED. However, one of the shortcomings of a CPR class is equipping you with the necessities to respond.
Scene and rescuer safety are arguably the most important pieces of any successful resuscitation – either in the field or in the clinical setting. Any seasoned CPR instructor or public safety professional will convey to others the concept of ensuring your own safety before lending a hand in an emergency. Most of the equipment you need to provide a safe resuscitation for both you and your patient can be acquired affordably and easily. Here are three key items to have in your rescue ready kit for any CPR emergency:
- Gloves – these handy (pun intended) coverings help ensure you are protected while working hands-on with a victim in cardiac arrest. The days of latex gloves are nearly extinct with the commonality of latex allergies. The new standard is nitrile based products. All OSHA approved first aid kits have at least one pair of gloves in them for rescuer use. Furthermore, nearly all AEDs have a rescue ready kit attached to them with a variety of helpful tools, including gloves.
Don’t have either nearby? You can grab a box of 50 pairs for less than 10 bucks online or at the store. Some local drugstores even sell gloves in individually wrapped pouches.
Remember that gloves are of absolutely no use to you if you don’t have them readily accessible, so be sure to keep some in your car, computer bag, office drawer, etc. These should be the first line of defense against blood-borne pathogens in an emergency. I always like to say, “No gloves? No go!”
- CPR Mask – having a barrier device is certainly preferred over the old mouth-to-mouth method. All students are required to use training masks during the CPR certification class, but few actually have access to them afterwards.
One type of mask is the CPR pocket mask. These masks are usually stored in a hard plastic case and are applied directly over the nose and mouth of the victim. Most AEDs have a pocket CPR mask located inside of the rescue ready kit attached to it. All OSHA approved first aid kits also have one. But here again, are you always around one of these two devices? The odds are you are not.
I personally recommend purchasing a keychain CPR mask. These cost less than five dollars and usually come in a brightly colored nylon case attached to a key ring. The mask consists of easy to read directions on how to apply it to the victim’s face as well as an FDA approved one-way valve. This device allows rescue breaths in but no bodily fluids out, thereby protecting the rescuer.
Since you most likely will have your keys with you everywhere you go, a CPR keychain masks helps keep you ready to respond in an emergency. Study after study shows that knowledge coupled with equipping equals action, and this is certainly true when it comes to providing rescue breaths during CPR.
- AED – yeah, the thing that shocks the heart. This amazing device, the automated external defibrillator, delivers a controlled shot dose across the victim’s heart. The shock is designed to stop the heart if it is in a ventricular tachycardia or ventricular fibrillation rhythm. These two rhythms are not sufficient for survival and must be corrected to allow the patient’s heart to return to a normal rhythm. Essentially, when the shock is delivered, the electricity completely stops the quivering of the heart. This will allow the heart the opportunity to restart on a more normal rhythm.
Over the last decade AEDs have become more prevalent in the workplace, church, shopping centers, mass transit facilities, and sporting arenas. The fact remains that nearly 80% of the sudden cardiac arrest that occur outside of the hospital actually happen in the home. As we all know, AEDs are not commonplace in homes, yet. Every minute that passes without an AED attached to a cardiac arrest patient’s chest results in a 10% loss in the chance of survival. We also know that the average response times for paid fire and EMS departments to bring an AED to the scene are between six and 10 minutes from the time of the 911 call. This would mean the victim, at best, could only have a maximum of a 40% chance of survival. As you can see, AEDs are an integral link in the chain of survival.
If you have an AED at your workplace, church, school, or community center, now is the time to become familiar with it. Ask your safety or maintenance folks if you can take a look at the unit to become familiar with its functions. Thankfully, nearly all AEDs operate in a similar way. The most important thing about using an AED is turning it on. Once you do that, the AED will provide verbal and visual instructions on how to proceed.
The costs of an AED can range from a few hundred dollars for a recertified unit to a few thousand dollars for a brand-new device with all the bells and whistles. Discuss the benefits of having an AED with your safety committee, HR team, and key decision-makers. If you are responsible for maintaining the AED at your workplace, church, or community center, be sure to check with the manufacturer for a maintenance plan as well as replacement of batteries and pads.
Outlined above are just three of the many tools that can help promote a successful and safe resuscitation during CPR. If you haven’t already, enroll in an upcoming CPR class to learn how to help save a life. Once you’re finished, consider acquiring some of these essential items to help you be ready to respond when seconds count.