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CPR: A Life-Saving Skill

CPR, Cardiopulmonary resuscitation


Cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR, is an emergency technique that can be used to save the life of someone who has stopped breathing or whose heart has stopped beating. CPR can be performed on adults, children, and infants, and can be administered by anyone, regardless of their medical training. In this article, we will explore the history of CPR, the importance of learning CPR, when to use it, how to perform it, and the potential dangers and mistakes to avoid. By the end of this article, you will have a better understanding of how to perform CPR and why it is a critical skill to have in an emergency situation.


History of CPR

The history of CPR dates back to the 18th century, when mouth-to-mouth resuscitation was first documented as a method of reviving drowning victims. In the 1960s, cardiologists began to experiment with the use of chest compressions to stimulate the heart, leading to the development of modern CPR techniques.

Today, CPR is a widely recognized and accepted technique that is taught to healthcare professionals, emergency responders, and members of the general public. The American Heart Association (AHA) has played a key role in promoting the use of CPR, establishing guidelines for performing the technique, and advocating for its widespread adoption. In recent years, advances in technology and the availability of automated external defibrillators (AEDs) have further improved the success rates of CPR, making it an even more critical skill to have in emergency situations.


When to use it

CPR should be used in situations where someone has stopped breathing or their heart has stopped beating. This can be caused by a range of medical conditions, including cardiac arrest, drowning, suffocation, electrocution, drug overdose, and trauma.

It is important to recognize the signs of cardiac arrest, which include sudden loss of consciousness, lack of breathing or gasping, and absence of a pulse. If you suspect someone is experiencing cardiac arrest, it is crucial to act quickly and call for emergency medical services (EMS) before beginning CPR.

It is also important to note that CPR should not be performed on someone who is breathing and has a pulse, as this can do more harm than good. In these cases, it is important to monitor the person and provide any necessary first aid or medical attention.


How to use CPR

Performing CPR involves a combination of chest compressions and rescue breaths. Here is a step-by-step guide for performing CPR on an adult:

  1. Check for responsiveness: Shake the person and shout, “Are you okay?” to see if they respond.
  2. Call for help: If there is no response, call for emergency medical services (EMS) or instruct someone nearby to do so.
  3. Open the airway: Tilt the person’s head back gently and lift their chin to open their airway.
  4. Check for breathing: Listen for breathing and look for chest movement. If there is no breathing or it is irregular, begin chest compressions.
  5. Perform chest compressions: Place the heel of your hand on the center of the person’s chest, between the nipples. Place your other hand on top and interlace your fingers. Keep your arms straight and push down hard and fast, compressing the chest by about two inches. Do this at a rate of 100-120 compressions per minute, allowing the chest to recoil completely between compressions. 
  6. Give rescue breaths: Pinch the person’s nose shut and give two breaths into their mouth, watching for chest rise. Each breath should last one second.
  7. Repeat cycles of compressions and breaths: Continue with cycles of 30 chest compressions and two breaths until EMS arrives or the person starts breathing on their own.

It is important to note that if you are not trained in CPR, it is better to perform chest compressions only, as providing rescue breaths incorrectly can do more harm than good. Additionally, CPR techniques for children and infants differ slightly and require different ratios of compressions to breaths. It is recommended to take a CPR course to learn these variations and receive hands-on practice.


Why it’s good to learn

Learning CPR can make a significant difference in emergency situations where someone’s life is at risk. CPR can double or even triple a person’s chance of survival, and it can buy valuable time until emergency medical services (EMS) arrive.

When someone is experiencing cardiac arrest or has stopped breathing, time is of the essence. Every minute that passes without intervention decreases the chance of survival. By knowing how to perform CPR, you can take immediate action and potentially save a life.

Learning CPR is also empowering. It can give you the confidence to act quickly in an emergency situation, rather than feeling helpless and overwhelmed. Moreover, CPR training can be valuable in many settings, such as in the workplace, in schools, or in community organizations.

Finally, knowing CPR is a valuable skill that can benefit society as a whole. The more people who know CPR, the greater the chance that someone will be able to receive immediate assistance in an emergency. This can lead to a safer and more connected community.

CPR, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, life saving

Where you can go to learn CPR with an instructor (and practice)

There are several places in Canada where you can learn CPR with an instructor and get hands-on practice. Here are a few options:

  1. Canadian Red Cross: The Canadian Red Cross offers CPR and AED training courses for both individuals and organizations. They offer in-person courses that range from basic CPR to advanced life support. You can search for classes on their website and register online.
  2. Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada: The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada provides CPR training courses for healthcare providers, workplaces, and the general public. They offer in-person classes that include hands-on practice with CPR manikins. You can search for classes on their website and register online.
  3. Local hospitals and community centers: Many hospitals and community centers across Canada offer CPR training courses for their local communities. You can contact your local hospital or community center to see if they offer such classes.
  4. Online CPR courses: There are also online CPR courses that offer certification and training. These courses may not provide the same level of hands-on practice as in-person courses, but they can be a good option for those who are unable to attend in-person classes.

It is important to note that different courses may have different requirements and certification options. Before registering for a course, make sure it meets your specific needs and provides the appropriate level of certification.


Dangers/rookie mistakes

While performing CPR can be a life-saving skill, there are also some potential dangers and rookie mistakes to be aware of. Here are some examples:

  1. Broken ribs: CPR can be physically intense and may result in broken ribs, especially in older adults or individuals with pre-existing medical conditions. While broken ribs are not usually life-threatening, they can cause pain and discomfort.
  2. Improper technique: Performing CPR with improper technique can reduce its effectiveness and potentially cause harm. For example, performing chest compressions too shallowly or too deeply, or not allowing the chest to fully recoil between compressions, can hinder blood flow to the heart and brain.
  3. Mouth-to-mouth contact: Some people may feel uncomfortable or unsafe performing mouth-to-mouth contact during CPR. However, there are alternatives such as hands-only CPR that can be just as effective.
  4. Delayed or no action: Delayed or no action can significantly decrease the chances of survival in cardiac arrest or respiratory failure cases. It’s important to recognize the signs of cardiac arrest and act quickly.

To prevent these dangers and rookie mistakes, it is essential to receive proper CPR training and certification. Additionally, individuals who are not comfortable performing mouth-to-mouth contact can take hands-only CPR courses that provide the same lifesaving benefits. Remember, the goal of CPR is to save a life, and acting quickly and confidently can make all the difference.



In conclusion, CPR is a fundamental skill that has the potential to save lives in emergency situations. While there are some potential dangers and rookie mistakes to be aware of, these can be avoided by receiving proper training and certification. Knowing when to use CPR and how to perform it correctly can make all the difference for someone experiencing cardiac arrest or respiratory failure. Taking a CPR course is a simple yet effective way to learn this life-saving skill and help create a safer and more prepared community. Remember, being prepared can make all the difference in an emergency situation.

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