Nurses account for the largest share of healthcare providers in the United States. They are everywhere: schools, hospitals, camps, war zones, reality television sets. Everywhere. Nursing students are trained to listen to our patients, establish good rapport and utilize patient-centered care when developing a healthcare plan with the other healthcare team members. However, in some moments we do not have the time to go through the nursing process to complete a thorough assessment or thoughtfully reflect on the plan being developed for the patient. Sometimes, in emergencies, we must act immediately, and we must be ready to act in any situation.
In a highly stressed environment such as an emergency, the body can react in one of three methods: fight, flight, or freeze. You find a person lying on the ground with people surrounding them and they are not breathing, and they have no pulse. What do you do? Years ago, I would panic and call for help. Now that I have gone through BLS and ACLS training I would still have an elevated heart rate and slightly panic but would now know the blueprint of how to respond, who to call for help, and how to direct the scene. In a hospital setting, staff are well equipped for an emergency scenario. They have code carts in multiple areas on the floor; AED machines attached to most walls; Ambu bags and backboards at the bedside; proper cardiac medications; and enough staff to switch off giving chest compressions. However, there are cases in the outside world where there are limited resources, services to call for help or people to help with CPR. For this reason, ACLS is important to know in a variety of settings and conditions.
I remember reading a CNN article a few years ago about how people with breasts are less likely to receive CPR than people without breasts due to bystanders possibly having a fear of touching the victim’s breasts. As a result, some CPR classes began having mannequins with breasts to start to accustom people to performing CPR on people with breasts. Moreover, when I was a younger child and my mom was taking CPR classes the order in which one performed chest compressions, checked for airway, and checked for breathing was different. The workflow was A-B-C which has now switched to C-A-B: chest compressions, airway, and breathing. These changes in CPR have allowed for improved practices and more lives saved. It shows that staying up to date on BLS and ACLS training can allow you to stay up to date on evidence-based practices that could improve emergency outcomes.
BLS or ACLS training has been a part of my medical journey from the beginning. I first got ACLS training in high school when I began shadowing nurses and physicians in medical settings. Once I got to nursing school it was a requirement to be BLS certified. Many students in my nursing program had little to no healthcare experience. On the first day of one of the clinical rotations on the emergency floor my close friend witnessed a code blue where one of the nursing students who had previously been an EMT jumped into action and began forming CPR. Nurses and nursing students must always be ready to act in any circumstance. For this reason, it is so important to get BLS/ACLS training. Knowing how to organize yourself and others in an emergency setting, locating an AED, the basic workflow of CPR can be the difference between a life lost and saved. Even if you have never performed CPR on a real person, having background knowledge and going through simulations provides a foundation for a more organized and grounded action plan in a real-life situation.
Nurses are the health care members who work closest with the patients. We are the ones constantly assessing the patient’s conditions, watching for trends in vitals, trying to prevent falls and fostering a friendly and professional relationship with the patients. Because we are on the floor with the patients, we are often first on the scene of an emergency such as if a patient is in cardiac arrest.
I am in my last term in nursing school where I am doing my final practicum on the intermediate cardiac unit at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, Oregon. ACLS training is pivotal for all nurses and especially for me while working on a cardiac unit where abnormal cardiac rhythms are so prevalent. Code blue and emergencies are high stress and fast paced environments.
This ACLS scholarship for Health Care Providers would be an incredible opportunity to support my final push into my nursing career and allow me to continue to protect my patients, family members, peers and anyone in various conditions at any moment in time. Until I find myself in a real-life emergency it is particularly important that I practice my ACLS abilities. I encourage all healthcare professionals and people seeking a career in the healthcare field to stay up to date on BLS/ACLS training to practice navigating and feel more competent in emergency scenarios. As a soon-to-be nurse, I want to put my patient first, which means being able to react in any circumstance to save their life.