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June 14, 2013 // By Greg Richter // Comments

Penn Medicine Nurses Teach West Philadelphia Residents Lifesaving CPR Skills

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CPR-training-volunteersWhether it’s a stranger going into cardiac arrest in a local mall or a larger scale tragedy like the recent bombings at the 2013 Boston Marathon, first response to those in need can be a matter of life and death.

The American Heart Association says that “70 percent of Americans may feel helpless to act during a cardiac emergency because they either do not know how to administer CPR or their training has significantly lapsed.” To no longer be part of that 70 percent, I attended a free cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) training course taught by the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP) Nursing Community Outreach Program to West Philadelphia residents at New Bethlehem Baptist Church.  The course is one of many efforts by Penn Medicine nurses to volunteer their time and talent in the community.

“Heart Disease is the number one cause of death in this community,” said Pam Mack-Brooks, MSN, CRNP, director of the HUP Nursing Community Outreach Program. “The nurses felt that to equip even one member of a family would be a powerful step to helping save a life!”

Laura Solano teaches CPRI also attended Philadelphia Science Festival’s Discovery Day in Clark Park where David Buckler from the Center for Resuscitation Science and Penn Presbyterian Medical Center (PPMC) nurses Laura Solano, MSN, RN, CNS and James Kurtz, RN, offered hands-on training in Hands-only CPR to kids and adults.

Below are some questions I had before attending these sessions in hopes that it will assist some of you who are unfamiliar:


James Kurtz teaches CPRWhen is CPR needed?

If you suspect that someone may need CPR, first ask them if they are okay. If they do not respond, call 911 immediately and begin CPR.  

Patricia Toth, MSN, RN, nursing professional development specialist at HUP, explained to CPR course attendees that CPR should be done only when someone is unconscious or unresponsive. This may be due to several causes of cardiac arrest.

The instructors added that some people do not do CPR because they are afraid of hurting the person involved; but reaffirmed the point that action is needed as the person might die otherwise.


How do I perform CPR?

The approach for an adult, child, and infant are all different.

Basically, after (or during if on speakerphone) calling 911, pump hard and fast on the chest for at least 100 compressions per minute (actually to the same beat as the Bee Gees’ Stayin’ Alive), and at least two inches deep, to pump blood to the heart and brain until paramedics arrive.  Only if you know the person, should those compressions be preceded by two breaths in mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.  Lay people are encouraged to do hands-only CPR without breaths for adults who suddenly collapse and whose case is not due to drowning. This is due to the importance of compressions and the fact that effectively delivering breaths is difficult for novices and may take valuable time away from delivering compressions.

All Penn Medicine hospitals are now implementing a four-year, CPR Hospital-Initiated Training Project, started in 2010 and led by Principal Investigator Benjamin Abella, MD, MPhil, and Project Manager Audrey Blewer, MPH. The project has been championed at PPMC by floor nurses such as Jim Kurtz, RN who provides CPR training to family members of inpatients at high risk for cardiac arrest.  The initiative provides CPR training to these families and gives them a “CPR Anytime Kit” to practice their CPR skills and share with others.

“This past year, we have trained over 670 family members of “at risk” patients at eight area hospitals (including UPHS facilities),” said Blewer. “Since two-thirds of out- of- hospital cardiac arrests occur in the home, CHIP (the hospital-based CPR training model) equips the “high risk” population with the life-saving skills of CPR.”

Using the American Heart Association’s CPR Anytime video removes the need for a certified instructor and allows individuals to learn CPR in less than 25 minutes. Those individuals are then encouraged to take the CPR Anytime kit home to share the skill with other friends and family. Currently in the second year of a four year study, the team hopes to train 2,000 people and develop a sustainable program that can be disseminated through hospitals nationally.

When do I use an Automatic External Defibrillator (AED)?

Knowing where to find an AED isn’t always easy, as many Philadelphians discovered while participating in Penn Medicine’s MyHeartMap Challenge.  If you suspect that someone is going into cardiac arrest, take the two pads of the AED and place them on the individual across their heart, turn it on and press the analyze button. The device will prompt you with further instructions if the individual needs a shock.

Where can I receive this training?

The Red Cross provides hands-on first aid and CPR courses. To sign up, visit or call 1-800-REDCROSS. The Red Cross also offers a free iPhone and Android app with useful first aid information preloaded even if the user does not have internet connectivity.

This post is a very brief overview and certainly does not substitute for actual training. While we all hope to never need these skills, everyone reading this should take the opportunity to develop them, and if called upon, know how to save a life. Remember, if this baby is trying to do it, you should also.


Photo above:

Back row left:
Pam Mack-Brooks, Pauline Ansine, Monica Harmon
Next row:
Theresa David, Susan Cobb, Pat Smith, Victoria Brown, Tina Cooper, Dotti Grochowski
Front Row:
Eula Davis, Patti Toth

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