Mara Hnilicka submitted 2020-10-13

During a life-threatening event, employing effective cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) measures can save precious time and improve the chance of a patient’s survival. As a registered nurse, currently enrolled in an RN-Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program, I have learned that successful CPR requires mental and physical preparedness. I welcome the opportunity to highlight techniques that bolstered my confidence and am motivated to share personal recommendations with my peers to promote efficacy and preparedness.

When responding to a cardiac event, students must be mentally prepared and ready to act without hesitation. I have outlined beneficial strategies to reduce anxiety, promote confidence and quicken reaction time. In my first Basic Life Support (BLS) class, I learned about the Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) algorithms, which identify the sequences of actions that must be taken to best treat a specific cardiovascular emergency. To reduce fear and hesitancy when responding to an emergent situation, I recommend that students memorize the life-saving flow charts. By internalizing the algorithms, students can eliminate indecision and ultimately save time during a high-pressure situation.

During my first clinical rotation at the hospital, I remember feeling disoriented. To counter this sensation, I began practicing situational awareness. At the beginning of each shift, I would walk the floor to orient myself and locate the crash cart which contained emergency response equipment including: bag-valve-masks, an AED and various medications to treat cardiac dysrhythmias. Establishing a mental layout of the floor and identifying the location of BLS tools instantly reduced my anxiety and made me feel more comfortable knowing I could quickly respond to an emergency. In addition, to facilitate quicker reaction time, I recommend that students become proficient using various hospital equipment and medical devices. During my clinical rotation, I discovered that the hospital beds were equipped with built-in features to enhance resuscitation efforts. By fully understanding equipment functions in advance, I felt confident assisting medical providers during an emergency.

To best prepare myself mentally for CPR, I utilized visualization techniques. Visualization is the repeated mental rehearsal of a process or outcome to achieve a desired result. Rehearsing the steps of CPR in advance made me feel more confident and natural when performing the act in real life. When practiced often, the brain perceives the imagined as real, forming new neuronal pathways that lead to a conditioned behavioral response. Building an accurate mental picture improves visualization and I found this technique works best when drawing from a detailed personal experience. Students with an opportunity to observe CPR in a clinical setting are encouraged to do so, as it not only enhances visualization efforts, but also demonstrates the demanding physical exertion put forth during a resuscitation.

I can still recall the uneasy feeling of leaving my first Basic Life Support course, out of breath and muscles burning from the buildup of lactic acid. As an athletic individual, I was surprised by the amount of physical effort required to perform CPR correctly and realized I needed to adopt new strategies to heighten physical preparedness. To advance my physical fitness, I first focused on improving aerobic endurance by increasing my swimming sessions from three to five times a week. Swimming not only improved my aerobic respiration, but also provided me with an opportunity to focus on my breathing. Performing CPR is a physically demanding act and learning how to manage breathing can help stave off fatigue after an initial surge of adrenaline. Improving aerobic respiration was one way I prepared myself physically, but in order to build strength, I adopted and applied a technique known as “specificity of training” to my daily workout. By incorporating repetitious exercises that mirrored the motions and movements of performing chest compressions, I was able to strengthen specific muscle groups, improve the quality of my form and increase stamina. To further prepare myself and reduce the potential for injury when moving patients, I joined a yoga class which increased my flexibility, strengthened my core muscles and assisted with breath control. Quality cardiopulmonary resuscitation requires expending an enormous amount of energy and by introducing new techniques and strategies into my fitness routine, I felt confident in my ability to respond effectively in various situations.

Performing CPR correctly is a strenuous task and to enhance my mental and physical preparedness I incorporated different cognitive techniques into my daily routine and customized my fitness program. To prepare mentally, I recommend that students memorize and internalize the ACLS algorithms, practice visualization frequently and maintain situational awareness. By incorporating these techniques, students are able to build self-confidence, reduce anxiety and quicken their reaction time. A successful resuscitation often depends on physical preparedness and I recommend that students engage in a healthy lifestyle as well as participate in activities or sports that emphasize aerobic endurance, strength training and flexibility. In addition, students who struggle with maintaining effective compressions should adopt specificity of training which helped me develop the stamina to sustain quality chest compressions. When students are mentally and physically prepared, life-saving measures can be performed confidently and with efficacy, providing the greatest opportunity for a successful resuscitation.