Chocolate and strawberries. Bread and butter. Salt and pepper.
Some things are just made to go together, and such is the case with defibrillators and CPR. Far from being options you need to pick, they are both practices you need to use together to give a patient the best chance of survival.
Let’s look at them both separately. First of all is CPR – it’s definitely more widely used and many workplaces enforce CPR training as mandatory. If someone goes into cardiac arrest, you should of course commence CPR as soon as possible and call for paramedics. But the time that it takes for paramedics arrive means a dwindling survival rate for the patient as their heart is still stuck in an irregular rhythm.
Similarly using a defibrillator alone, while still more beneficial than nothing, will shock the heart but not account for the period of time that a patient did not have blood and therefore oxygen moving around their system, which may cause severe damage to their brain.
The ideal practice is to have two or more people on hand at once – one to call 000, one to retrieve the on-site defibrillator and one to immediately commence CPR. Once turned on, the defibrillator will start coaching how to continue CPR (some models will even give feedback so you can adjust for better results). Whilst CPR is being performed, someone else should attach the defib electrodes to the chest of the patient and then follow the prompts to administer the shocks.
You should never stop CPR unless the patient regains consciousness and starts breathing (in which case you can roll them into the recovery position) or until the paramedics arrive and take over.
In our courses, defib training is a core component of our CPR training. Defibrillators are designed so that they can be used by anyone, with or without training, but we find building confidence with them in a training course does make a difference if you are suddenly in a real-life situation.
When effectively used together, and with a shock administered within the first minute of a cardiac arrest, a patient’s survival is close to 90%. Without defibrillation, this rate falls by 10% every minute.
Here at First Aid Accident & Emergency, we advocate for proactive action rather than reactive. We don’t want you buying a defib and undertaking training in response to a tragedy that has already happened. Make sure your workplace is ‘heart smart’ – ensure employees are trained in CPR and First Aid and have an easily accessible defibrillator on the premises.