Why Wait?

Posted: November 13, 2015    |   John Ehinger

With the annual ritual of Thanksgiving around the corner, it is a convenient time to pause and consider the other things that we do each year…celebrate birthdays, pay taxes, watch the Super Bowl, sign up for health insurance, get a flu shot, and in some states you may even get your car inspected. While there is an array of things that each of us do an annual basis, what do you do every two years? Elect a congress person? Watch either the summer or winter Olympics?

I bet you did not think of another thing that is on a two-year cycle – CPR training. As odd as this interval might sound, it got even odder a few weeks ago with some of the statements contained in the updated American Heart Association (AHA) Guidelines for CPR and Emergency Cardiac Care:

“The standard retraining period for BLS [Basic Life Support] is every 2 years, despite growing evidence that BLS knowledge and skills decay rapidly after initial training. Studies have demonstrated the deterioration of BLS skills in as little as 3 months after initial training.”

The AHA further acknowledges “the observed improvement in skill and confidence among students who train more frequently”. The inherent mismatch of a two-year cycle from the other important things in our lives is one thing, but of greater importance, the science supports a tighter interval.

Considering that other flaws (logistical challenges, high costs, time limitations, inconsistent quality, challenging learning environments, etc.) of the historical in-person approach will only become more vexing as training is provided more frequently, a paradigm shift will be necessary for the AHA to reach its stated objective of doubling cardiac arrest survival by 2020.

This shift requires embracing new methods of training. Fortunately, the AHA also acknowledges the most pragmatic solution with the following statement:

“Although instructor-led courses have been considered the gold-standard, multiple studies have demonstrated no difference in learning outcomes (cognitive performance, skill performance at course conclusion, and skill decay) when courses with self-instruction are compared with traditional instructor-led courses… This recommendation is based on the absence of differences in learner outcomes, the benefits of increased standardization, plus the likely reduction of time and resources required for training.”

Two years is a long-time, particularly in the age of Instagram.   Fortunately, you don’t have to wait that long anymore.

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