The Effect of CPR on Bystanders

I was 15 years old, sitting at a restaurant when a man collapsed. He was following the hostess to his seat, fell forward into a table and dropped to his back on the floor. I watched good Samaritans try and help this man. I was frozen in fear, grasping onto my mother and shaking. I had never seen anyone collapse, or the unsettling details that occur when a person does.

Despite the efforts made by two nurses and a handful of people, this man did not survive. There was no AED present and I don’t remember how long it took for paramedics to arrive. That was over 17 years ago, and I can still see the man’s eyes fixed on me, hear them screaming his name and every detail in-between. The feeling that lingered the most was helplessness.

Even though I was only 15 years old, I had no idea what to do or how to help. I’m now a CPR/AED/First Aid Instructor and work for I’m passionate about AEDs, high quality CPR and educating the public about Sudden Cardiac Arrest. That man is not necessarily the reason I took this career path, but every time I sell an AED, I think of the hundreds of thousands of people like him that have left behind families. I think of him with every CPR class I teach. After reading a recent article posted in ‘EMS World’, I realized something. I’ve never thought about the bystanders who performed CPR that day, or how it’s affected them.

The study in ‘EMS World’ looked at the effects of CPR on bystanders. They interviewed a group of 15 people who all had previous CPR training, but had never performed CPR. All events occurred in the bystanders’ place of work and all but one of them were coworkers. All participants indicated distress from seeing a person collapse, felt panic and urgency but all overcame those barriers to act. Some participants were worried about liability or workplace policies, while others were fearful of hurting the patient. The study also showed that everyone reacts differently to these events. Some indicated after the patient died that they were comfortable because they’d done their best to help, while others were worried they didn’t do enough. As a CPR Instructor, I will make sure to go over the feelings that can occur post-event.

You can teach someone how to perform CPR. There are excellent tools provided these days, like the Brayden CPR Manikin, AED Trainers, and actual AEDs that provide CPR Feedback*. We need to explain that even though you may never perform CPR on a real person, those who do may have trouble dealing with the event afterward. We always follow-up on the status of the patient but let’s not forget to follow up on the bystander. To anyone who has performed CPR or used an AED, thank you and good job. Without you, the victim would have never had a chance of survival.

*”By January 31, 2019, the American Heart Association (AHA) will require the use of an instrumented directive feedback device or manikin in all AHA courses that teach the skills of adult CPR. Specifically, an instrumented directive feedback device or manikin is one that, at a minimum, provides audio or visual (or both) feedback on the rate and depth of compressions during CPR training.”

Written by Blaire

Written by Blaire Czarniecki
Customer Service Director

Fact checked by Phillip Woods, BA, NREMT-P, FP-C

Blaire attended the University of Tennessee where she graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Human Ecology- Child and Family Studies. She has been in the Automated External Defibrillator (AED) industry for over eight years and is the Director of Customer Service for Coro Medical. Blaire is also an American Red Cross-certified CPR/AED/First Aid Instructor, highly trained by each manufacturer on their specific AEDs, and knowledgeable regarding ALL State AED regulations and legislation.

“I know that every day I come to work, I am playing a part in saving someone’s life. I am passionate about these devices and am always looking for new and innovative ways to spread awareness and knowledge about Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA). I look forward to the day when everywhere I go, I will see an AED—when SCA will no longer take any lives.”

Last updated October 3, 2018

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