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When Was the Last Time You Had to Do CPR?

July 16th, 2010 by – Marijke Durning

There are three letters that mean a lot in the world of lifesaving: CPR – cardiopulmonary resuscitation. As a nurse, have you had to do CPR? When was the last time?

When I was in nursing school, although we were taught the basics of CPR, we weren’t certified. That was for us to do on our own. It turned out that the colleges in our province went on strike when I was almost finished my RN program. Not wanting to waste time, a group of nursing students got together and arranged for an accredited CPR class at a local hospital. This is when and how we became certified.

I didn’t need my CPR skills until a good while into my nursing work. I rarely had patients who got to full codes; we usually got them to ICU before they got to that point. I ended up transferring to work in that ICU where, of course, we had many codes. I found the best way of learning how to run and react in a code was by doing the compressions. When you’re doing the compressions, you’re right in the middle of things (literally) and not in anyone’s way.

I never got completely confident with being part of a code, but it was interesting to learn how the system worked and the different roles the team members had. And although I wasn’t confident, I was able to do my part when the codes occurred.

Not long after that work in the ICU, I was walking down the street and found a man doing CPR on a woman who had collapsed on the side of the road. I went to help him and found that any skill doing CPR I had in the hospital had deserted me in real life. Without the backup of the machines, other people, and the drugs, I was unsure of myself.  I ended up taking my cues from the man who was already there, which is how it should have been anyway. After all, he did have the situation in hand.

Sadly, the woman didn’t make it. She wasn’t very old – she was out trick-or-treating with her child because it was Halloween night. I was ok about the whole thing; after all, we tried our best and knew that maybe something else had happened that just wasn’t fixable, but what stunned me was how I was slow to react outside of the hospital environment. I just wasn’t thinking in the same mode as I would at work. It made me wonder if I would always be like that in an emergency situation.

Luckily, I’ve not come across a similar situation since and I hope to never come across one. But maybe I learned something and will have more confidence 25 years later than I did that Halloween night.

Do you have any CPR stories to share?

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Posted in On-the-Job Fears

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