In the US alone, about 475,000 people die each year of cardiac arrest. Of those 475,000, around 350,000 cardiac arrests happen outside of hospitals. Because people don’t receive immediate help, around 90% of them die at the scene.
Back when I worked towards getting my truck driver’s license in Germany in 2008, I was required to get certified in extended first aid before they would even let me behind the wheel. Car drivers were not trained as much but still needed to pass a basic CPR course before they even could start taking practical driving lessons.
By now, the courses in Germany have been revised and consist of a full 9-hour first aid course with practical training as a prerequisite for all driver’s license classes. It’s the same training you need before starting a full EMT-training.
The US is ahead of the curve
In the US, no such training is mandatory to get your driver’s license. But since 2017, they have a system that I’m even more impressed with and I personally think should be adopted worldwide.
38 states have made CPR courses mandatory in high schools before students can receive their diploma. This is even better than the German system, where you are only required to learn CPR if you want to get a driver’s license.
I know from experience that it takes around 12 minutes for the EMT to arrive at our house. So having someone around with knowledge of CPR can be a real lifesaver. We should not limit this to people who have a driver’s license, but to anyone who has the chance to help.
I honestly think that the US system — making CPR mandatory at schools — should be adopted worldwide, without exceptions. If schools are there to teach us important things for life, this is definitely one such thing.
Important lessons that should be included
No one wants to end up in a situation where someone’s life is in danger. But if we are caught in such a situation, we need to have the know-how and the confidence to administer reliable first aid.
I can only speak from my own experience, but I’m sure a trained medical technician can chip in and add something they think we all should learn.
Here’s what I learned — and I’m thankful that I did.
- Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) both for adults and toddlers
- Stopping and compressing major bleedings
- Shock treatment
- Treatment of burns, scalds, and acid-induced injuries
- Stabilizing victims in the recovery position
- Treating open and closed fractures (stabilization)
- Dealing with diabetic emergencies and applying epinephrine (EpiPen)
- Stabilizing epileptics during a seizure
Of course, CPR is one of the most important lessons you can learn. You can triple the survival chance of someone suffering a heart attack. But all these lessons help you saving lives and developing the confidence you need to administer first aid when your help is needed.
Not only would you be able to save someone’s life. But by doing the right thing, you can also take some of the burden off EMT workers. Nothing is more devastating than arriving at a scene and being unable to save a life.
If you are there in that critical moment before they get there, and you can do what is necessary to delay a negative outcome, you might just buy the EMT enough time to save that man, woman, or child. This can mean one less trauma the paramedic has to carry around for the rest of their life.
Do the right thing and invest time in learning a skill that is actually valuable
Again, I can’t stress this enough. This should be mandatory everywhere around the world. But if it is not where you live, then please take the initiative and volunteer for a first aid course. Your family, your friends, and the stranger who collapses in front of your eyes will be forever thankful.
I hope that you will never get into such a situation. But if you do, please be prepared.
And I have to endorse the American education system, which faces much criticism from all over the world, but here it does one thing better than anyone else.