Virtual Lifesaving

YOU'RE working late one night when you hear a co-worker fall to the floor in an office nearby. You run down the hall, only to find him lying slumped on the floor and unresponsive. Without help, your co-worker has only minutes to live and the clock is already ticking. Your floor is equipped with an AED, and you're the only other person present at this hour. Do you know what to do?

According to the American Red Cross, sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) claims the lives of 220,000 Americans each year. An estimated one in seven people will have the opportunity to use CPR in their lifetime. And while CPR can widen the survival window for an SCA victim, a normal heart rhythm can be restored only by defibrillation, with the most life-saving potential occurring in the first four minutes of cardiac arrest. By providing an AED on site, your company has already given you an invaluable tool.

Now, new training software can help to ensure you know how to use it.

Using AED with Adult CPR
First Aid for All's AED with Adult CPR software thoroughly covers both CPR and AED training with audio, visual, and hands-on instruction and activities. Available on CD-ROM, the program allows you to work through several hours of training materials at your own pace and keeps on hand not only written materials, but also activities for practice.

After reading, listening to, and watching instructions on topics ranging from Adult CPR and AEDs in Action to Special Circumstances and AED Planning, available at either a basic or advanced level, you can work through interactive activities that reinforce and practice key points. In addition to the more basic (and easy) activities of interacting with 911 operators, proper hand positioning, and AED pad placement, with this program you must simulate proper CPR chest compressions and rescue breaths on a virtual manikin, using the keyboard's spacebar and enter key, and correctly order the events surrounding the administration of an AED shock. While engaging, this program is far from a game, with many activities requiring several attempts and a second look at earlier materials. Even with prior CPR instruction, I had to make use of the included "hint" button on several occasions.

When you've worked through all of the program's sections and feel comfortable with the materials, you can test your knowledge with the "Assessment." This section is comprised of a theory test of 25 multiple-choice questions and a practical test for demonstrating skills. Once you have achieved a perfect score on the theory questions and mastered all activities, you can submit your results via the Internet to receive a certificate in the mail.

Minor Frustrations
On the whole, First Aid for All's AED with Adult CPR training is an engaging learning tool, but several small glitches in the program may make you more likely to engage the computer's CD eject button.

To go beyond the third section of the menu requires you to go through several steps in the registration menu, even if you have already registered. Initial registration also requires the online submission of the registration form, which can be complicated by server errors on the company's end. Similar problems also may prolong the submission of assessment results.

While most of the program's interactive activities serve to reinforce earlier materials, several activities in the AED section can feel like a shot in the dark. Actions an activity requires (or right answers) don't seem to carry over into the next similar situation. One activity wouldn't let me click on the right answer or any other answer listed. Realizing instructions may vary with each brand of AED, I also was excited to see the "My AED" section, which claimed to provide more information on specific AEDs. However, this section listed only one AED, and I'd never heard of it.

A Virtual Replacement?
The availability of CPR/AED training in a software product is definitely a step toward training more individuals and thus saving many more lives. However, I do not think training on a virtual manikin with the use of a spacebar is yet as effective as live training with the use of an actual CPR manikin.

While CPR classes can be intimidating, situations that require the performance of CPR or the use of an AED are likely to be ten times more stressful and intimidating. One of the main purposes of CPR/AED training is to make an individual comfortable and/or familiar enough with the procedure to perform it in the direst of circumstances. CPR is strenuous and tiring, and I question whether compressions practiced on a keyboard can be easily mimicked properly on an actual human chest. (A representative from a regional nursing school said it would not even admit students without a current CPR certification card issued after the completion of a live class.)

Still, as a refresher or subsequent material to a live course, CD training works well. And if my life were on the line, I doubt I'd question the origin of my rescuer's training.

This article originally appeared in the November 2003 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

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