It was a beautiful, sunny early spring day in March when two of our team hit the Quad on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus. Their goal? Find out if these bright students of this world-class university were versed in what an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) was, where they could find them on campus, and if they knew how to use them. After several hours, 52 respondents had taken the time to answer six very basic questions. The results were surprising, to say the least.
The majority of respondents, 90%, stated they knew what an automated external defibrillator was. Sort of. When pressed to articulate how they work, the students who identified knowing what an AED was, comically giving a buzzzz noise, a sign of pulsing electricity, or simply said “CLEAR” as seen on TV shows relating to doctors and EMTs. Only three students were able to give defined answers about the specifics of how an AED works in cases of sudden cardiac arrest.
Two questions focused on whether students were aware of the AEDs on Madison’s campus and where they had seen them. Half of the respondents were positive that AEDs could be found on Madison’s campus, the other half were simply unsure. When pressed as to where exactly they might have seen an AED before, 38% named buildings on campus including the Education building, the Engineering building, and the Union. The remaining 62% could not recall where they might have seen them.
The next questions asked for the student’s opinion as to whether the implementation of AEDs in university buildings was a campus safety issue. Overwhelmingly, all individuals gave a resounding yes, stating the implementation of AEDs was absolutely a campus safety issue, that it is the university’s responsibility to implement the devices, raise awareness, and educate students and faculty on their use and locations.
The last and most important question asked, “would you be comfortable grabbing an AED to be used to save someone’s life if you had to?” It was met with a disappointing 97% of respondents who replied “no”. The most common reason for the objection? Perceived inability to operate the device.
What did we learn?
While obviously, this is a small sample size, the respondents were random enough to efficiently highlight an adequate cross-section of the population. We were left wondering, is this lack of education regarding the use of AEDs the case on most college campuses? While many states are starting to mandate CPR/AED training as a prerequisite to high school graduation, university students who graduated before those laws took effect are at a disadvantage when it comes to understanding how simple it is to use an AED. A population lacking the skills and confidence to do CPR and use an AED puts the majority of its members at risk of death.
From the information gathered as a result of this survey, it would seem the University of Wisconsin-Madison could do a better job educating its students on sudden cardiac arrest, how to perform CPR, and how to locate and use an AED.
Thankfully, campus police at UW-Madison do offer CPR/AED classes monthly, but students need to sign up for them. The remaining three classes offered this school year appear to be full, a great sign for campus safety officials. Hopefully, more students will take advantage of these opportunities.
If you are a college student, ask yourself, do you know where AEDs are located on your campus? Do you know how they work and would you be comfortable grabbing one in a cardiac emergency? If you answered no to the above questions, you may want to seek information on your school’s education offerings with regard to AEDs. Lastly, does your school currently educate students on AEDs and CPR, or is there a lack of readily available information? Use your voice to send shockwaves through your campus by engaging your administration within your university to properly educate students and invest in life-saving campus equipment.