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March 9, 2006

CPR: A new tool for teachers

by Ethan Kuhnhenn, Online Managing Editor
Two weeks ago, Maryland State Senators passed "Andrew's Law," a provision named for former Blair student Andrew Helgeson, that would require every Maryland high school to have an automatic external defibrillator. State legislators have taken the first step to improve an inadequate environment for student health in schools but why stop at defibrillators? MCPS should make cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and First Aid training a requisite for all teachers at all levels of education in the county.

After Andrew Helgeson (Blair class 2005) died because of sudden cardiac arrest last May the need for teachers trained in CPR has never been more pertinent. Even though Helgeson died at his home, sudden cardiac arrest could have just as easily struck during school hours, when teachers could have administered emergency aid if they had taken the required CPR courses.

Over 900 people die every day from sudden cardiac arrest, and approximately 95 percent of cardiac arrest victims die before reaching a hospital. This means that victims of cardiac arrest have little time before they die, and even less time (four to six minutes) before they suffer from irreversible brain damage. CPR can be performed on-site and, according to the American Heart Association (AHA), administering CPR immediately after cardiac arrest doubles the victim's chances of survival.

If properly trained, anyone can learn CPR easily. Basically, it entails giving mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to force oxygen into the victim's lungs, followed by intervals of chest compressions that circulate blood from the heart to the vital organs. According to the AHA, CPR helps maintain vital blood flow to the heart and brain and increases the amount of time that an electric shock from a defibrillator can be effective. If the state ends up funding defibrillator programs, then their use, coupled with CPR-trained educators, would make MCPS one of the best-prepared school systems to deal with a case of cardiac arrest.

CPR isn't administrated only in cases of sudden cardiac arrest but can also be helpful for other medical emergencies—stroke, head-shock, trauma, severe bleeding, choking and allergic reaction—that are just as likely to occur at schools as they are at any public location.

In a school system with nearly 140,000 students, emergencies are inevitable and educators need to be prepared to deal with any medical situation.

Currently, only athletic coaches employed by MCPS are required to have any training in medical emergencies. Other educators, including physical education and science teachers are not required to have any previous training. For any teacher, and especially ones who teach in these areas, knowing CPR and First Aid is a necessity. PE teachers should be able to administer CPR and First Aid if a student injures himself or collapses, and a science teacher should be able to do the same if a student is injured in an experiment or suffers an allergic reaction.

The cost of providing CPR and First Aid training courses is very low. Current voluntary CPR and First Aid training courses cost $20 per person. MCPS could easily lower the overhead cost if it made this training a requisite.

States like Michigan and countries like Australia have already implemented CPR and First Aid training programs for their educators. Even if a little time and money invested only manages to save one life, it would make requiring CPR training for teachers worth every penny.



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  • Jon B on March 9, 2006 at 10:59 PM
    YAY - Awesome JOb MD State Legislature
  • William Burton (View Email) on March 10, 2006 at 11:13 AM
    Please never use CPR for head shock, severe bleeding, etc. If done correctly, CPR will most likely break the victims ribs while saving his or her life. You don't need to do that for bleeding or choking, and pumping the victim's heart for him or her (although it is already working while the victim is choking or bleeding) just wastes time that could be used for the correct first aid. e.g. the heimlich maneuver for choking
  • Maximilian Lockwood on March 10, 2006 at 1:12 PM
    To Will Burton:
    Boy Scout pride, yo. Boy Scout pride.
  • Dumb Democrats= (View Email) on March 11, 2006 at 8:28 AM
    agree with my dear old cody
  • clare on March 11, 2006 at 9:58 AM
    just throwing a thought out there: would it be possible to have first aid and CPR certification courses as offered in-school courses? how many students would be interested? mcps would have to hire teachers trained to teach others these skills, but if enough students show interest i think it would be worth it.
  • William Burton (View Email) on March 11, 2006 at 5:31 PM
    I'm really surprised that there isn't already a course in first aid and CPR. I know that there is a "Cadet Program" whereby students can take a course with volunteer firefighters during the school day. I know that they offer the Essentials of Firefighting course, but I would think they also offer Emergency Medical Technician - Basic training, which is used more often. I know that for the Sandy Spring Volunteer Fire Department, up to 80% of the calls require EMTs, not firefighters.

    O yeah and of course there is some strong Boy Scout pride here.
  • cpr-certified on March 11, 2006 at 8:23 PM
    well Ethan it would really support your argument if you brought up that kid who almost drowned on the TPMS florida trip this year, and mr Rottiers did CPR on him.
  • sam silsbee on March 12, 2006 at 3:36 PM
    to clare: getting CPR/First aid certified is a relatively quick process, and probably wouldnt take up a whole semester. however, it could easily be integrated into a PE or Health class.
  • ??? on March 16, 2006 at 5:30 PM
    People don't like to here questions like this about life and death, but:

    How much is this going to cost? Let's say that MCPS can get every teacher trained for $10. That's still tens of thousands of dollars. Aren't there better ways to spend that money?

    It seems to me that there are tangible things we can do for students in this county that totally outweigh the small chance that a teenager is going to have a heart attack.

    (But I love the idea of teaching CPR in the health curriculum.)
  • Richard Helgeson (View Email) on March 17, 2006 at 9:43 AM
    AED training should also be added to CPR training. This should be part of the Health class curriculum and every high school student should receive this training as a condition of getting a diploma. This is how it is in New York State. Again, AED training would be relatively quick.
  • Think Pink on March 19, 2006 at 1:11 PM
    To ???: The teachers could pay the $10. I am sure most MCPS teachers can afford that and those who can't can be covered by the school system or donations from other teachers.

    And not only students can have heart attacks. What about teachers, administrators, other staff or visitors?
  • R. Weliver (View Email) on May 4, 2007 at 5:28 PM
    Since most of our schools no longer have school nurses I have written a Public Policy that would train school staff members as EMTs. That is what we really need in all of our schools!
  • Keith Weaver (View Email) on February 11, 2008 at 8:42 PM
    I agree with those of you who said CPR/AED training should be part of our schools health curriculum. There is now a very easy and inexpensive way of doing this. Visit www.heartsavingseattle.com to see these CPR course options.
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