Two weeks ago, I was conducting a Basic Life Support for the Provider (BLS) class for a stay-at-home mother getting ready to head back into the workforce. Like so many of the participants who attend my courses I noticed her hesitation pushing the buttons on the Automated External Defibrillator (AED); there are two.
Let’s examine a reality, our lives are monopolized by buttons. We wake up and push a button to turn off our alarm, there are buttons on the coffee maker, your phone, your computer, in your car (I counted at least 35 buttons in my car and three just to get into my car!), the garage door opener, the microwave, your tv remote, your oven, and I could go on, but you get the point: we push A LOT of buttons in one day. So why are participants in my classes afraid to push two buttons on a machine that could save someone’s life?
WHAT IS AN AED?
An AED is an automated external defibrillator. Simply put, the device is designed to detect an abnormal electrical rhythm in the heart, and if necessary, prompt a responder to re-establish an effective heart rhythm. In order for the AED to work a responder must push two buttons.
First, the AED must be turned on; this is the first button.
Once the AED is on the device will prompt the responder to attach the pads to the unresponsive person’s chest, plug in the device (if necessary), when to stand clear of the patient and when to push shock (the second button).
There are several precautions I reiterate to participants when using an AED. First, all the responders should ensure that everyone is standing clear while the device is analyzing. The AED could detect the heart rhythm of a responder touching the person when the AED is looking for any abnormal heart rhythm within the patient. This could result in the patient not receiving a shock. A second precaution is that everyone should be standing clear while the device is shocking. The AED is designed to momentarily stop the heart while allowing the heart to re-establish an effective rhythm. Touching the person could result in stopping a responder’s heart.
There are additional precautions that are addressed in the course, but for the purposes of this article, I will simply focus on these two precautions as they relate to pushing the buttons on the AED.
RELATING TO THE RESPONDER
When I was an instructor with the American Red Cross Mount Rainier Chapter, located in Tacoma, Washington, I was headed to a course the next day at a workplace and my co-instructor volunteered to pick up the equipment from the office the day before.
The next day he told me that he had to remove the equipment from his truck while he needed the truck for an errand. Upon his return home, he found that his six-year-old daughter had pulled out the AED trainers and attached them to the manikins. She even explained how to use the AEDs to her father! So, if a six-year old can listen to the device and look at the pictures on the pads, I’m pretty sure that anyone can handle using an AED. What the six-year-old doesn’t understand are the safety precautions. AEDs are designed at a third-grade reading level. Easy to use.
BACK TO PUSHING BUTTONS
I quizzed my husband on how many buttons he pushes in a workday and he is still telling me about buttons he encounters every day: elevators, telephones, door bells, handicap accessible doors, copy machine, printer, afternoon coffee, GPS, and so on. We both agree that we possibly push hundreds of buttons every day.
Participants in CPR/AED or BLS classes are asked to push two buttons on an AED trainer during their skill’s sessions. The device is not a real AED, it cannot deliver a shock. Many participants hesitate with communicating to their peers to stand clear while the device is analyzing and while the device is shocking. The consequences of the failure to communicate when using a real AED could result in injury, or worse.
As the course goes on and the more hands-on practice the participants become more confident using the AED and the two buttons become less scary. The course participant even starts to communicate effectively with their peers and ultimately demonstrates that they can use an AED.