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Doing CPR Outside the Hospital

December 21st, 2010 by – Marijke Durning

Nurses are not unfamiliar with CPR – cardiopulmonary resuscutation, whether they are a clinic nurse or an intensive care nurse. How often they do CPR does vary greatly though. But even if you do CPR frequently in a hospital or clinic environment, doing it outside of the hospital is a very different thing.

When a patient “crashes” in hospital, CPR is initiated and the crash or code team is called. Every doctor and nurse has a role to play and equipment and medications are at hand. Your role is one part of the play that is going on as you all try to save the patient’s life. On the street or in your house – you aren’t just a bit player, you have the starring role.

This happened to me one day, many years ago. I was pregnant with my son who is now 23 and I had taken my brother out trick-or-treating on Halloween. As we came down one side street, we saw a woman on the side of the road and a man doing CPR on her. I had worked in ICU, so I had done CPR more times than I could remember, so I stepped in to give him a hand, confident in my abilities. Maybe I shouldn’t have been so confident.

Someone had called 9-1-1, so we only needed to keep doing compressions and respirations until the ambulance arrived. The man on the scene had been doing CPR for a few minutes by the time I happened upon them. Doing compressions with your knees on cold hard concrete isn’t easy. Trying to do respirations instead of using an ambu bag isn’t easy. Remembering the rhythm without panicking was – surprisingly not easy. Everything I had ever known about proper CPR seemed to have gone out the window.

A police car eventually came and there was an oxygen tank in the trunk. Unfortunately, no ambu bag and since the woman wasn’t breathing, having no ambu bag made the oxygen tank useless. Finally, after what seemed like forever and a half, but was likely 5 or 10 minutes, an ambulance came.  The paramedics took over and we were left to go off on our own.

Unlike in a hospital, where you can ask how your patient did, there was no follow up. We had no official word of whether the woman lived or died, but I suspect she died. She didn’t look like she would pull through. And, while I was left wondering, which was bad enough, I was also left with a sense of “do I really know what I’m doing?”After all, in the hospital, CPR came naturally. On the street, I couldn’t remember much about the procedure and I took my cues from the first aider already on the scene.

I’ve wondered over the years if this was a normal reaction because I was out of my element or if it was just me – that I didn’t react well. Have you ever come across anything like this?

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Posted in Work-Life Balance

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