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How do providers stack up with giving bystanders the confidence they need in emergency situations?

The comment we get from many participants is, "I don't know if I would feel comfortable or confident to help in an emergency." When we ask why they feel that way, we get the typical responses such as I don't remember my training, I don't want to get sued, I don't want to make it worse, etc. 


Ok, we get it; it's a lot of responsibility, it's hectic, and very nerve-wracking, to say the least. Let me ask you something - What is worse than someone being dead? Can you get deader than dead? If you answered no, kudos, you'll understand where I am going with this. If someone is not breathing, aka their dead, what harm are you going to do pumping on their chest and giving a couple of breaths? How much worse can you really make them? Considering that our out-of-hospital heart attack survival rate is less than 10% in Canada, you really can't make it much worse. 


If someone confident stepped in, they would assess the scene, deem if it is safe, check the airway, breathing and circulation. In the absence of any of the above, they would begin CPR. Simple as that; however, the misconceptions and lack of information regarding legal action, mistakes, and easy-to-understand direction instill fear.  

We want people to feel confident. If you leave a first aid class still hesitant or uncomfortable that something is better than nothing, your provider is not doing their job.


 As an instructor, our job is to help people feel confident enough to perform CPR, give them hands-on experience, and work with them until they feel that they understand the laws. The Good Samaritan act protects you so you can't get sued as long as you are doing a reasonable act (aka not tracheotomies that you learned from Grey's Anatomy) and know that they are the key component to saving a life. 


The brain begins to die in as little as 4-6 minutes. At the 10 minute mark, you are basically brain dead. People need to know that they are the link between life and death.


 My two questions are: 


  1. If you are a safety trainer, do you make sure you go above and beyond to instill confidence into your participants to act in an emergency? 
  2. If you've recently taken CPR or first aid, do you feel confident in your skills? If you answered no, what are you going to do about it?  


As an instructor, when I have participants who come into the class hesitant and stubborn, confidently stating they will not help no matter what, I make it a personal challenge to get them to a place of realistic confidence. I believe breaking it down into simple steps and explaining the "how" and "why" will keep with retention and confidence that something is better than nothing.  


Instructors play a crucial role in saving lives by instilling confidence and knowledge into their students, ensuring they become the bystander who steps in the help. Instructors need to engage and include their participants in an interactive learning experience, and they'll have a better chance of retaining the information. No one wants to sit in a class filled with archaic PowerPoints, outdated videos and monotone instructors.  


Less than 40% of bystanders even begin to initiate CPR. Worse yet, only 3% of people will use an AED. The importance of AED and CPR is pretty well on par, and yet barely anyone feels confident in applying AED pads. We really need to evaluate why these stats remain low. 


Let's really look at the standards and expectations and set the bar slightly higher.