Hands-Only CPR: Saving a Life Becomes Easier

By , SparkPeople Blogger
When I received my CPR recertification last June my instructor recounted an incident she had heard about from a former student regarding the reality of those who may be too frightened to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (AKA CPR). We may know what to do, but what happens when it is time to implement the measures should someone collapse in our presence. The story has a tragic ending, however, it is a lesson we all can learn from.

A few years ago a gentleman at a local road race collapsed and suffered a heart attack while on the course and even though people stopped to help, no one administered CPR. The bystanders called 911 and made sure the man was comfortable, but sadly that was as far as the help went. By the time the first responders arrived at the scene the gentleman was deceased.

Unfortunately this isn't an isolated story. People are often too fearful of implementing a technique they only practiced on mannequins. And when it comes time to put this to the test, fear of doing further harm can stand in the way of helping another human being.

Using the previous CPR guidelines, remembering the number of compressions to the number of breaths in an emergency situation can leave many people feeling overwhelmed. The fear of doing more harm than good takes over and sadly this fear can be the difference between life and death.

CPR was first introduced to physicians 50 years ago and to the general population in the early 1970's. It is something that many of us learned in our high school health class and hopefully something that we will never have to use. But how many of us, unless consistently recertified, remember the number of compressions to breaths?

Recently I heard a radio snippet regarding the American Heart Association's new campaign Hands Only CPR. This campaign was established to make CPR less complicated for anyone who may find themselves in need of performing this life-saving technique. One no longer needs to worry about the number of compressions to breaths--the idea is to pump hard and fast in the center of the chest until the first responders arrive.

While none of us ever wants to find ourselves in a position to use CPR, doing so can be the difference between life and death for anyone who may find themselves suffering a debilitating heart attack. I hope you will take time to get certified in CPR by taking a class through the American Red Cross or any other certification program. And if not, take a look at the link above and know that we all have the power in our own hands to save someone's life should the need arise.

Have you heard about the American Heart Association's "Hands Only CPR" campaign? Have you ever had to use CPR? Would you be willing to use this new technique more so than the older version?

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Yes I have performed CPR. I learned CPR back in the 90's as a requiremnent for EMT status. I renewed it every year. But, my partner, a paramedic, and I noticed an ambulance unit at a house while we were returning from an ambulance call. We stopped and assisted with CPR, while medics worked as ACLS. The man died. Couldn't be helped even with 4 of working. Everytime I have persformed CPR, the patient never recovered. But, I would automatically begin CPR, even if the patient did not respond to treatment. I could never stand by and just call 911. Report
I haven't had to perform full blown CPR before, but I have had to use other components of the course. I've had to perform the heimlich maneuver on my husband's grandma (it didn't work in the standing position, so we laid her on her back to dislodge it), and I've used it on a very young child who was choking on a teething cookie. Both times, it was automatic - I didn't think twice about it. Just did it. Report
Last summer, I was with my husband when he had a sudden cardiac arrest. I was certified in CPR a very long time ago, but had recently read an article about "hands only CPR". I called 911, pulled the car to the side of the road, pulled him from it and began 'mostly' hands only CPR until rescue got there. Granted, I attribute his survival to nothing short of a miracle and many people being in the right place at the right time (rescue, ER staff), but I did initiate the hands only technique when he first collapsed. Report
I received my certification for CPR and First Aid in college but since then let it go. I have luckily never had to give CPR but hope that I would if I came across someone who was in need. I do like the new guidelines for I could not tell you how many compressions and breaths you are suppose to give. The new guideline helps really anyone who has never been trained in CPR or not. Report
I've been doing CPR ever since 1976 or so, when my community was one of the first group of communities in Kansas to train people to be paramedics and we set up a volunteer EMS staff to complement our volunteer fire department. One of the paramedics was our HS Coach & PE/Health instructor - so we were all trained to do CPR. At that time, it included the "pre-cordial thump" where we were to hit the heart first with our fist - talk about scary, and I hoped I'd never have to do it, knowing I'd likely be breaking ribs! Over the years, CPR has evolved, in response to other national trends, such as HIV/AIDS, and this current method will help me, and many others, not worry about having diseases transmitted as a result of the mouth-to-mouth aspect. It also ensures privacy for a CPR provider who might have know they already have a communicable disease and feel that they shouldn't provide CPR if they happened to be first on site, because they wouldn't want others to know that they "couldn't" give CPR because of having HIV or some other condition. For myself, I've always thought the hands on part of CPR was easier to perform than going back and forth between breathing and doing chest compressions (for one man CPR) and less awkward than having two people on site and trying to decide who will do the chest compressions and who will do the mouth-to-mouth (and switching positions due to tiredness requires practice even with partners used to training and working together like professional paramedics - not something we as individuals will likely have the opportunity to do.). The one time I had to do CPR, I was with my mom and we were both trained - my mom was a volunteer EMS at the time, and the older lady collapsed inside the clothing area at a local department store. About the time we started, an employee found us and notified store security and EMS, and right after that, a couple people came by who were already professional RN's and off-duty EMS, so they took over for us (yea!!!). The lady? She pulled out of that particular event okay but died a few days later - we found out she was quite old already and had a bunch of other health issues. But in any case, we were able to help when we did. Report
I think my reflex after years of EMS would be to do full on CPR with breathing. For those concerned about passing germs, I suggest either a pocket mask or a microshield.
( http://www.mathesontrigas.com/indus
) to protect against this problem. Report
Hopefully more people will get certified with this method. So much easier!

CPR usually just buys time. What many people don't realize is how many people are actually saved. CPR doesn't always bring people around, that's what Advanced Life Support is for. Hopefully, they are not far away. TV shows show it helping most of the time, and that's not reality.

I wouldn't want to put my mouth on anyone else's mouth with no protection. Ick!

I think this method makes it less scary, knowing you're just doing compressions, not counting & keeping track of breaths vs. compressions. Did I do too many? Not enough?

i have done cpr on a person twice once alone and once with someone else where i took over the head(breathing )part as i had more experiance than the other person.both times the out come was good and the person surrvived.at the time when it happened i just went and did it without thinking.i didnīt put a tissue inbetween my mouth and his,one because it didnīt occure to me and two i thing it would only get in the way.the thought that the person might have aids or that i could do more damage by breaking his ribs etc. didnīt occure till afterwards and only because other people asked me wasnīt i worried.people shouldnīt worry about doing damage.i.e. breaking a rib etc because they can be mended.once a person is dead they are dead and thatīs it. Report
I have heard of the hands-only campaign as I just did my recert for work a couple of months ago. I have had to do CPR occasionally in my nursing job, but never out on the street. At home, with loved ones or those I know well I would have no hesitation about performing full CPR to the best of my ability. At work, CPR is always done with a bag/valve/mask device to avoid actual mouth to mouth contact. If I came across an anonymous victim out on the street, mall, grocery store or whatever, I would be using a hands-only approach while I sent someone for a bag/valve/mask device (I keep mine in my car). No way would I be doing actual mouth-to-mouth on a stranger, in these times of horrific communicable diseases (think hepatitis, HIV/AIDS, H1N1 and other viruses). Report
When I was young and a cert life guard, I would have unthinkingly used my skills. Now that I'm older and know how frequently family sue ..... I would probably not. In Germany, you cannot be sued and for your driver's licence you must pass a test to administer first aid at least back in 1990 -92 when i lived there. While on the autobahn there was an accident. My husband and I did stop and administer aid - pulling a person from the car, using our blankets, etc although we were afraid we might be sued anyway as foreigners but all was well. Within a few min, the 1st aid people and police arrived. If people want to be helped then the people should tell their Congressmen to pass a law otherwise QUIT BLAMING PEOPLE for what you have allowed to happen Report
I had to do CPR a few times during my nursing career. Since retirement 12 years ago, my only hesitation has been that I was too fat to get on the ground to help anyone. Now that I'm losing weight I think I can do CPR on someone who is on the ground (i.e. not in a hospital bed) and I wouldn't hesitate to help. The hands-only method is not what I learned, but if it works that's what I'll do! Anything to help.
In my last CPR certification class last summer (I work in a child center at a gym so it's a requirement obviously for all of us to be certified), we were taught the normal procedure with breaths, but also told that if we didn't want to do the breaths in real life that the chest compressions would be effective on their own in many cases. I hope if I were ever in a situation where I had to use CPR, I would be able to administer it. Luckily that has not happened so far. I would probably feel more comfortable using the hands only method on strangers, but if it was a family member, I would use the other method. Report
I know that this is going to sound HORRIBLE but seriously YOU CAN'T MAKE THEM DEADER....JUST do something...ANYTHING...no matter what YOU are pumping on their chest (how many times) it is MORE than someone without a pulse is getting...just pump fairly hard...you can walk away from the scene and even if the person dies you know YOU did all you could!!

I have done CPR at least 500 times (probably more actually) in the hospital AND on the street...after I did it on the street I was a WRECK...it is a scary thing and something that I hope to never do again but guess what SHE LIVED and I was NOT doing my best CPR ...so please please learn it and do it...if it were your child, husband, mother or YOU you would want someone to do SOMETHING!!! Report
This was not brought up at my last re-cert, but I expect it will next year. I have to re-cert for BLS and ACLS every 2 yrs.
Unofficially I have always maintained a hands-only theory (never had to use CPR off duty) for myself and my loved-ones. I do however carry an ambu-bag in my car. Another approach I planned to use was to instruct a family member to breath for pt, while I do chest compressions. Report
Our School District provides CPR training every year for all who wish to learn this important skill. 2 years ago, I took the course and we received the hands only training. I feel much more comfortable with it than the older version. We should ALL know how to do it--you just never know when someone might need it!! Report
Very good article. I need to learn CPR. Report
I,too, am a BLS instructor and have been a nurse for many years. It's interesting to see us come "full circle". By that I mean coming back to a simple hands only approach. Interesting, indeed! Report
I've been trained in the BLS and ACLS (didn't pass this one!). While working in the hospital, it's easy to just push that button and have EVERYONE come out of the woodwork. I would always stay near (espesically if it was my patient) but knew the other reponders were more highly trained. If I were to see someone collapse in public today, I could give CPR, BUT because of my bilateral knee replacements, it makes it highly impossible to get down on the ground. I use to joke with my co-workers that I could do compressions with the heel of my foot.

Bottom line, by doing nothing is worse than doing it by what you may perceive as the wrong way. If in doubt, don't hesitate to take a class! The HANDS ONLY sounds like a great way to get started on saving a life!

My nursing days are over (after 42 years), but you never outgrow your training! It's like riding a bike---you don't forget! Report
I was certified a long time ago and have never used it....couldn't tell you how anymore, but the new procedure sounds like it would be a lot easier! Report
I just renewed my CPR in Feb. I was taught then that the hands only is what we need to do now. Staying alive by the Bee Gees was mentioned as to the rate of compressions. This is fairly easy to remember. Thanks for the post. Report
About six months ago my work put on a CPR workshop for all employees. This class was put on by the Red Cross and taught the Hands Only CPR. Since this was just a workshop and not an official class I had to take CPR class to become certified in CPR for my fire department. That class was only two weeks ago and was put on by AHA trained instructors. They gave training in the full CPR (hands and breath). I asked my instructor about the Hands Only training, he said that it was something the AHA was considering but the training wasn't going to change for a few months. Funny that this announcement came out so quickly. Report
I do not know anything about the new hands on only. It does sound less complicated. I was also thinking it might be safer for the person who is trying to help. I would be interested in learning this new technique. Report
I am certified in cpr and have to renew it in June. It will be interesting to see how they teach it now. I remember having to do the compressions to "Staying Alive" when I took it the last time. Renewing it is a great idea because if we don't use it (which we hope we don't have to!) we forget. Report
Thanks for this post! Report
Dan & Chip Heath in Switch nailed it. I resuscitated a guy who collapsed in a mall with a heart attack. (Good save-he was pulseless 2 minutes and came back combative from the lack of oxygen to his brain—it was almost funny) I was stunned by lack of action by the crowd.

Crowd psychology is the problem. When one person walks by, another does too out of not wanting to look stupid and over-react. How to counteract this? Make the path easier by training more people for CPR. And make CPR easier if that’s what it takes.

Switch calls lack of action in a crowd a bad reaction to peer perception as opposed to peer pressure. I like that.
my girlfriend is an EMT and only a few months away from getting her paramedic certification... she said that, ironically enough, to get the right rate of compressions ("hard and fast" is kind of vague) you'd want to go along with the BPM of the BeeGee's song "Stayin' Alive." there were a few other songs she'd mentioned but that's the one that's always stuck in my head. Report
I have been trained years ago to perform CPR but luckily I have never had to use it. I should take a refresher course though. Report
I've vaguely heard of hands only CPR and think it certainly would be better than nothing. I've been certified several times (with both American Heart Association and Red Cross) and in adult, child, infant, and AED, etc. I also carry a face mask on my key ring so it's almost always readily accessible should I need it (also makes finding my keys at the bottom of a bag easier, LOL). I have never had to use my trainings, however.

- Josie Report
I saved my 3 year old daughter last year when she was in cardiac arrest in our backyard. I had only just taken the class for the first time 4 weeks earlier. I was taught breathing and compressions but the latest # which is 30, not the 10 I remember from watching TV when I was a kid. It was mentioned in the class that they were changing to a new no breath method but either way I didn't do the 30 and I did do both breath and compressions as long as it took until the emergency team asked me to leave my daughter and let them take over. They told me it didn't matter how many compressions she was alive because of me, and a whole lot of other things that worked out just right that day I thought, but it was nice to hear. My daughter has had a miraculous recovery, relearning how to do everything all over again and still working on it. I'm so grateful to the American Heart Association, I will never go without being certified. I am getting my older kids certified so as they babysit they will be prepared for anything because just like so many, accidents happen in a split second and knowing what I did gave me the courage to act and my daughter to live. Report
I believe I would be more likely to administer CPR using the hands only method. less to remember, so more of an ability to focus on what you're doing Report
My brother saved our mother's life last month with this technique. Our mother is elderly and did suffer some cracked and dislocated rib injury, which we were told is not uncommon and NOT serious. That was good to hear. Mom is still here to tell us that she happily prefers a sore chest to dead. So do we :) Report
I'm due for renewal of my CPR training. I'm sure they'll teach the latest technique. Report
I agree with this blog and I was just certified at the Red Cross yesterday. I feel confident that I could help a person in need. Report
Just a few weeks ago, I was at a dinner, where an elderly lady choked on a piece of food, passed out, and essentially died (stopped breathing). There were two people there who knew CPR and a doctor. The doctor couldn't do it herself, but calmly coached the other two through the techniques. One of them had only been certified last week. She was the one who saved the lady by chest compressions. Everything else that had been done to try to dislodge the food had failed, Heimlich, abdominal thrusts. How very fortunate we allwere to have those three women there who knew what to do. I swore then I'd take CPR and Pet First Aid, so that I could save someone's life, possibly even my own family's. Report
I too was trained years ago but never had a situation come up to use it. I would not be afraid to try the hands only method. I had never heard of this before. Thank you for the information. Report
I learned CPR in the 60's in Girl Scouts and Jr.HS, then HS. I was certified when I worked in the mid 1970's at UCLA. Years later my children and I learned it again to help a neighbor whose child had CF. I should get recertified sometime in the future, although I have never had to use it. I had seen a show on tv about only doing the compressions (hands method) vs. with breaths. I say do anything to help if you can. Report
I hope this newer technique will be offered for training around here. Like someone else said, putting your mouth on someone else's is a bit scary. I think more peple may be willing to help with this technique. I'm going to investigate to see if I can get certified with hands only! I've found instructors unwilling to train me b/c I am blind. I had some fearful to train me to use a fire extinguisher too, but I said and my very great instructor also said "Hey, if I'm the only one b/t you and the fire or the only one in the room when you have a heart attack, wouldn't you want me to know what I was doing?!" Report
I just received my CPR certification last month. They were still teaching the mouth to mouth and compression method. But a note was mode of the new compression method only. This will probably be in effect later this year. We also learned how to used the AED. This device will also tell you to keep the compressions going.
I remember a long time ago I had learned CPR and that there was never a flinch at doing mouth to mouth. Now we turn and run the other way.
Everyone should learn CPR technique. Hopefully no one will find themselves in a situation where they might need CPR until medical responders on the scene. They would want someone to help them. Think about it. Would you want someone to help you if you were in this situation? Report
I am an EMT, and a CPR instructor (with more than one training agency). I've read through the comments & here are my own responses. Feel free to contact me if you have more questions.

- Put your hands in the centre of the chest. I seriously don't understand the confusion here. Look down at your chest. There is a breastbone that runs down the centre. Put your hands on the centre of the breastbone (around the nipple line). Push there.

- You CANNOT be sued for giving CPR (or any first aid) unless you do something that is completely ridiculous. Example: Heimlich manoeuver on someone who is choking is reasonable. Trying to give the person a tracheotomy with a jack knife & a bic pen is ridiculous. Common sense!

- Don't worry too much about remembering the number of breaths &/or compressions. Just do something! Even the "wrong" number is better than nothing.

- AED (Automatic External Defibrillator) is very useful. BUT it is NOT a replacement for CPR because it cannot be used on everyone. AED is not publically accessable in some jurisdictions, so only EMS & hospitals can use them. In my jurisdiction, the public must be trained to use the machines. It's not the operation that is difficult (a monkey could do it) but we want people to understand why the machines won't shock everyone.

- The first "objective" of any kind of first aid is to do your best to PRESERVE LIFE. CPR is *never* counterproductive.

- I have been teaching for years and someone always asks about breaking ribs or puncturing the lung. Both are possible outcomes, but nothing to be concerned about. Your goal is to keep oxygen circulating. Brain damage can start in 4-6 minutes. Complications from broken ribs &/or punctured lungs will not manifest in that short of time. EMS & the hospital staff will deal with those problems later.

I hope that helps put your mind at ease! Report
I re-certified 3 years ago and they'd done away with the "2 breaths to 12 compressions" method because, according to statistics, compressions alone are more effective at sustaining life, as the blood is kept circulating continuously, without a break when the First Aider stops to administer breaths. Also (we were told), people are more comfortable with not having to do mouth-to-mouth, which can put a lot of people off doing CPR in a real-life situation.

I'm due to re-certify this December, so it will be interesting to see what else has changed since last time. Something always does. Report
I was taught the old way and really need a refresher course. I hope I never have to use it. Report
Yes, I have heard of the Hands only campaign. I was trained the "old" way and hope I never have to use either way. Report
I had heard about Hands only CPR. Since I have been trained in the older version I don't know which I would do. I pray I never have to. To the person who worried about complications later. That is in God's hands. Many have survived without problems and you never know who will or won't. I was once told "The person is already dead-you can't hurt them more and may help but don't feel bad if it doesn't work." Report
Thanks for posting this important information. Report
I have been a nurse for many years and continue to practice today. In the 80's there were no pocket masks etc so even in hospital resuscitation involved mouth to mouth resuscitation which is what would apply out in the community plus of course chest compression.

Over the years I have needed to perform CPR numerous times and the majority of them were successful. Not once did I stop to think about the danger to myself even while nursing in Africa, which has the one of the highest HIV rates in the world. I think in reality when the moment is upon you you are so busy trying to position the person correctly, checking the airway, feeling for a pulse etc that you automatically commence CPR should it be necessary.

They old saying " if in doubt, leave it out" is probably the best motto. When I trained and even today when a person collapses (in a hospital) the first thing we do is administer 100% oxygen asap as the bodies oxygen requirements will naturally increase, so unless you witness the collapse of a person and therefore have a time element to work with just doing chest compressions may not be the best idea. The other aspects to look at are how long before trained help will arrive? Are you able to keep up the chest compressions until they arrive?

The few people that have sustained broken ribs, bruising etc from CPR always seem to smile through their tears as they recouperate just grateful to have another chance, so do not worry about such things, you cannot do more damage than has already happened if someone needs CPR.

My fear is that if we do not administer breaths we may leave a few people with severe neurological deficits as mentioned earlier and just like that mans wife we would then be sentencing not only the person but all who love him to hardship and heartache. Report
I had to be recertified this past fall for helping in my ds's preschool. They had changed things even from 2 years previously when I was recertified for the first time since college in 1999.

If it would help me save a family member, I could do both mouth to mouth and chest compressions, being that I knew there wouldn't be no risks. If it was a stranger, I could do chest compressions only if I thought I could be effective. I guess doing something is better than doing nothing. Report
I have used first aid on many a person including my children. I have never had to administer CPR even though I learned by the old way. I would if necessary. I don't feel afraid to try. Report
I like this approach much more than the old approach. I have been wanting to get my 13 y/o son certified and if this is the training now provided it will be added to our list of summer activities. I want him to be prepared yet keep himself safe too. Report
I have heard of it, and I think it's much better than doing nothing, so I sure would use it. Also, you do not have to take classes through the Red Cross, many local Firehouses offer classes and they are much shorter and cheaper than the Red Cross. It's a good class for those who just want to be informed, but who do not need that in depth certification. Report
Downloaded the App thanks sparkpeople. Lets hope I never need to use it:) Report
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