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Are you ever ready for your first Cardiac Arrest?

Are you really ever ready to perform CPR for the first time? This is Andrew’s story and the emotional rollercoaster he went on.  

Are you ever ready to perform CPR for the first time? This is Andrew’s story…

I was lucky enough to have a placement in A&E, it was my dream come true and the place I want to start my career. However, as with anything new I had some anxiety, one of the biggest was performing CPR. We have all kissed a dummy and made its chest click, but what was it going to be like in comparison to the real thing? As a CPR virgin I had many different thoughts, would I remember how to do it? Would I be able to do it? Would I just be in the way as a student?

My second day on my new placement, the red phone rang and I was called over by the nurse in charge, ”We have a cardiac arrest on its way, go and join the team”. The over sensing fear rushed over my body, with a strange element of excitement, soon blown out by the enormity of the situation. The team were forming and next to me was a fellow student who was on her first day, both looking as petrified as each other.

As on TV, the consultant gave each person a job, even us!!!! Can you do compressions if needed? He asked. Of course, I said yes, but with the blue gloves on my hands started filling with sweat, my heart thumped in my chest, my stomach churning and my head trying to remember my training. The other student was asked to scribe, supported by a nurse. Wow, we are really part of this team, fully involved and supported by the others around us. The doors then flew open, it seemed like something out of the movies at first, but then reality kicked in and I was taking everything in. The patient was transferred to the bed and he had a Lucas machine strapped to his chest. For those of you who have not see a Lucas machine, it basically does the compressions for you. Unfortunately, this patient had been down a long time out of hospital and the decision to stop was made a short while after he arrived.

Even though I hadn’t really done much, it really felt like I had. The emotions of the situation draining my energy. After we had helped dress down the patient, we had the opportunity to have a debrief with the nurse in charge. She explained the whole process to us and how advanced life support was different to basic life support and gave us the opportunity to reflect on the situation. We were further debriefed by some more of the team, which made us feel as an important part of the team. I was gutted to see my first death and probably slightly relieved that I hadn’t had to do CPR, but I still had my CPR virginity.

Anyway, the following week another cardiac arrest came in, all the same emotions and feelings came flashing back to me. This time I was asked to scribe and keep a time check, a really important job in the situation. Then seconds later they arrived, a fireman performing compressions supported by an ambulance crew. Swiftly he was slid onto the bed and compressions began. If anyone hasn’t seen a resus room when a cardiac arrest comes in this is how I would describe it; ‘organised mayhem’ in the most subdued controlled environment, that probably makes no sense but it’s the only way I can describe it.

Time ticked by and compressions continued, I was shouting out every two minutes so they could perform a pulse check and the drugs were being administered. Suddenly I was asked to help with compressions, with out even a thought, I was there hands the patients chest performing compressions. It felt so different to that dummy we had practised on, but I had remembered, I was fully involved trying to save this mans life. I carried on rotating with other nurses and doctors with the compressions as well as helping scribe when I could. After what felt like hours, the man had a pulse and we were able to transfer him to the cath lab to have a stent inserted, unfortunately later on that day that patient died.

It was an amazing experience as well as a very sad experience. I had been part of a team trying to save a mans life, I wasn’t just a student, I was an active member of that team. Feedback was given to me by a couple of the doctors throughout the situation, giving me a confidence boost that I was doing the right thing. Reflecting on this experience has taught me a lot about being a student nurse and if I can pass these on to other students they would be. Firstly we are part of the team, we support nurses and doctors through potentially life-saving interventions. Secondly, we need to grab the chance to get involved in any situation we can, however daunting it may be at the time. Finally, belief in our own abilities, we are training to become nurses for a reason.

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