John Tobin | February 13, 2018

CPR University: Hands-On Course is Designed to Improve Survival from Cardiac Arrest

High-performance or high-quality CPR has been around for years now, but do we as EMS professionals understand what it takes to achieve and improve outcomes from cardiac arrest? We can read the American Heart Association (AHA) website, studies and a multitude of articles from various authors on what we need to do to perform high-performance CPR, but implementing the system of care that it takes to move the needle on survival can be a challenge. A worthwhile challenge in my opinion – we can save lives that would ordinarily be lost.

Students at CPRU practice a CPR scenario

 What Does it Take to Improve Outcomes from Cardiac Arrest?

Since its inception six years ago, I have had the privilege to be one of the lead instructors at the University of Arizona’s High-Performance CPR University (CPRU). CPRU is a two-day workshop developed to provide education, hands-on skills, and strategies to help providers and agencies improve survival from cardiac arrest. It’s conducted in a high-fidelity simulation lab at the University of Arizona Center for Simulation and Innovation in Phoenix. The course is held several times a year and attracts students from all over the world. This course was developed from the experience of multiple agencies that implemented systems of care that tripled their cardiac arrest survival.

 High-fidelity simulation lab at CPRU where a crew is completing a cardiac arrest scenario.

How to Deliver High-Quality CPR

Before the start of our course, most of our students feel they know what high-performance CPR is and are confident that they can do it well. After all, this is what we do for a living; of course we do it well! We begin with a two-minute assessment to quickly show the students that most of them have quite a bit of room for improvement; which is enlightening for the students.

The Basics of CPR. More and more, the basics are what science is showing most beneficial in increasing cardiac arrest survivability. So we start the course by teaching how to quickly recognize cardiac arrest. Reading this you may think this may seem unnecessary. After all, identifying cardiac arrest is not difficult. However, in our experience this is one of the main barriers in starting compressions quickly. We discuss the current science and best practices and then break down each component of CPR. After the basics have been mastered, we start to add technology such as AED's and defibrillators with audio/visual feedback. We aim to improve the individual skills through hands-on training, as well as developing high-functioning teams. The participants transform quickly, and it’s amazing to watch!

Click here to learn why it's important to switch out compressors to optimize CPR results

Measure CPR Performance. As I’ve stated, everyone thinks they are doing high-performance CPR, but we have found that most agencies aren’t measuring the results of their efforts, so they don’t really know. If we don’t measure – we don’t know how well (or how poorly) we are doing. The need and importance for collecting and interpreting data is one of the pillars of the course.

Celebrate CPR Survivors. A highly impactful part of the course is one of my favorite parts of the course: celebrating our survivors. We invite cardiac arrest survivors, their families and their rescuers to share their stories. It’s a compelling, moving and heartwarming experience that lasts long after the class is over.  In our most recent class we had two survivors prensent their expriences: a 17-year-old student and a 28-year-old police officer. They were from the Arizona Cardiac Arrest Survivors; a support group for survivors once they leave the hospital.

On-Going Mentorship

We also provide ongoing mentorship to our students once they complete the course. If they have questions once they get home they can contact any of the cadre of instructors. It's common for instructors to be asked to present at the partcipants' agencies after CPRU

Share Knowledge with Home EMS Agencies. How do you change the CPR culture of an entire organization? Gentle, constant pressure over time and a lot of hard work. After the course, the mindset of our students is “ventricular fibrillation is a survivable rhythm.” We encourage them to bring these skills and strategies to their home agencies. If you take up the challenge, you can move mountains and save more cardiac arrest victims.

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More About the Author:

John Tobin

For 20 years, Captain John Tobin has been a firefighter/paramedic with the Mesa Fire/Medical Department. He has been involved in EMS education his entire career. He has held a variety of positions to include EMS Captain, Alarm Room Captain, Battalion Safety Officer and Project Leader. He has worked as a paramedic in the field, ambulance and hospital settings. John is also a Lead Educator for two programs with the University of Arizona. The EPIC Project, which is a statewide initiative to implement the Brain Trauma Foundation’s recommendations for traumatic brain injury care and CPR University, which educates organizations from all over the world how to implement systems of high-performance CPR. In his spare time, he teaches CPR Rock Concerts to high schools and is a Registered Yoga Instructor. John has the privilege to present on a variety of EMS topics at conferences all over the world.