For National Emergency Medical Services (EMS) week (May 21 – 27), we’re honoring the local heroes that make up our EMS/Medic One system in King County. Each day, we’ll be sharing a unique perspective on saving lives from the people doing this work every day.
Today, we’re taking a closer look at training the public to know cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and effectively use a automated external defibrillator (AED) to restore proper heart rhythm. These two life-saving tasks can be performed by bystanders, before an Emergency Medical Technician arrives, increasing the chances for survival. In fact, bystanders trained in these skills have been a critical factor in helping Seattle and King County achieve high survival rates for sudden cardiac arrest.
Laura Miccile manages the EMS Division’s CPR/PAD (public access to defibrillation) program. Her work includes partnering with schools throughout King County to train 6-12 graders, and their teachers, how to perform CPR and use an AED. She also oversees placement and registration of AEDs in the community. Laura is a new addition to Public Health – Seattle & King County’s Emergency Medical Division, and comes from the private sector, where she worked in hospitals managing childhood injury prevention programs.
What made you interested in doing what you do?
I like doing work that has a lot of variety and I love working with community partners. It’s important to me that I do work that is meaningful and can make a difference. My experience in injury prevention fits well with the important work EMS does preparing adults and youth to respond in cardiac emergencies.
Tell us about the student CPR program.
We bring CPR and AED training to the schools to ensure there are even more people educated and ready to help in the case of an emergency. A new state law was passed in 2013 mandating that all students received CPR and AED training in health class as a condition of graduation. Although the law says that kids need to receive it in high school, many school districts are also including it in their middle school programs, so most kids get it twice. This is good, because everyone should renew their CPR skills on a regular basis.
Do you have them practice calling 9-1-1 to see what it would be like?
We recently developed a new curriculum that includes a section specifically on how to call 9-1-1, because we want them to be prepared if they ever have to call. It includes role playing so they can increase their confidence in being able to provide good information to dispatchers in a real emergency.
What is new in your field or has recently changed?
Probably one of the biggest changes we have seen is in bystander CPR protocol and the movement toward hands-only CPR on adults. People who were hesitant to do CPR because they were afraid of doing mouth-to-mouth on a stranger are much more willing to perform CPR if they don’t have to “lip lock” with someone they don’t know. The steps of CPR have been simplified, so it is also much easier to remember, which eliminates some of the worry people had that they would “do it wrong.” We are also doing a better job at recognizing the disparities in survival among vulnerable populations, and are making more efforts to reach these communities.
What makes you most proud of your work?
The partnerships that we’ve established enable us to do amazing things for our community. I am proud that our school district partners share the belief that there is value in training students in CPR and AED use – it is a skill that they will be able to use their entire lives. I am excited about the work that we are doing to expand CPR/AED training into vulnerable populations who otherwise might not have access to training. We now have CPR instructors in our schools who teach CPR in Nepali, Burmese, Spanish, and Somali.
What steps can the public take to be helpful in the case of an emergency?