Over the past several years, there has been a push to make student CPR training a requirement for high school graduation. In fact, at the time of this article, there are only 17 states with no official legislation outlining this requirement. Alabama was the first to adopt the idea back in 1984, but most other states did not start jumping on this bandwagon until 2008 when Iowa joined Alabama. In fact, the bulk of the remaining states didn’t come on board until after 2012. So why the sudden surge in the past two to three years?
As we get better at tracking incidences of sudden cardiac arrest and identifying the factors which increase survival rates, it becomes clear there is a need for bystander involvement. According to the American Heart Association Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics—2015 Update, the overall survival rates for out-of-hospital sudden cardiac arrest are only 10.6%, but when a cardiac arrest is witnessed and there is early bystander intervention, the odds of survival jump up to 31.4%. This is an astonishing difference! The odds go from 1 in 10 to 1 in 3!
What is the biggest reason for the increased survival rates? Time! Pure and simple, the faster a victim of sudden cardiac arrest receives CPR and defibrillation, the better their outcome. Immediate CPR and defibrillation within 3 to 5 minutes can double or even triple a victim’s chances of surviving.1 The key to bystander intervention is confidence. Common sense would dictate the more confident a rescuer is in the steps to be performed, the more likely they are to jump in right away. Providing strong training which covers all aspects of the Chain of Survival is crucial to instilling confidence. Educating students on the Good Samaritan laws which exist in all 50 states to protect well-meaning rescuers from doing everything they can in an emergency situation would also be advantageous.
The more people who are trained in high-quality CPR, how to identify the symptoms of sudden cardiac arrest, and how to find and use an AED, the higher potential there is for more lives to be saved. What better place than high schools to train large numbers of young adults? Let’s be honest, legislators must realize this is the generation which will care for them as they age. While SCA can strike anyone, regardless of age, sex, or physical fitness, the majority of cases occur in people with previous heart conditions2 and the risk increases with age. Think about it – if every student who graduates from high school knows how to perform CPR, future generations will be universally equipped to save more lives. There will never be a 100% survival rate – sometimes it is just someone’s time to go, or the event happens when the victim is alone – but when lives CAN be saved, shouldn’t there always be the chance?