The Wrong Way to Learn CPR

How-to CPR posters are widely available. Everyone comes across them in public locations like restaurants and schools. A web-based image search returns thousands of results for home-made and commercially produced charts. Even though these posters are popular and easy to read, they are not an effective way to learn CPR. Printing a CPR poster does not prepare you to save a life when an unexpected emergency occurs.

There are many reasons why printing a CPR poster will not help save a life:

  • Posters cover only the most basic details
  • Retrieving an reviewing a poster takes time away from treating the victim
  • Posters do not answer rescuer’s questions nor provide detailed explanations
  • The poster may contain incorrect or out-of-date information

Posters Cover Only the Basic Details

Posters, both large and small, are made to be visually appealing. Most CPR posters are created by artists, not trained CPR educators. Appearance is more important than content and details. Basically, how it looks takes precedence over what it says. In order to keep an orderly, neat, and not overwhelming appearance, these artists include only the most basic details about CPR on their posters, and omit information that clutters the page. As a result, an incomplete set of directions may be given. There is very little elaboration or explanation. Simplified, small drawings of the protocols that make up CPR are included on most posters. These drawing do not give a detailed explanation of how to act, how to move, or what to do when performing CPR. The explanations given on CPR posters are not comparable to the instruction provided during CPR training. Following the instructions on a poster, without supporting explanation, practice, or guidance, is likely to result in poorer quality or incorrect form when performing CPR on a cardiac arrest victim.

Using a Poster Takes Time Away from Treatment

Once a person’s heart stops beating and lungs stop breathing, the brain and other vital organs are almost instantly deprived of oxygen. Rescuers have less than five minutes to begin CPR before severe brain damage has occurred and death is likely. Every second that life saving treatments, like CPR, are delayed, brings the victim closer to brain damage and death. Outside of a hospital setting, CPR is typically given by a bystander that witnesses the attack and takes action. Time spent retrieving a CPR poster and reviewing the steps is wasted time. Imagine if the bystander has difficulty finding the poster and has to spend additional time searching a home for its location. Every second counts. Rescuers must be ready to start CPR as soon as a cardiac arrest is detected. Quick response time and early access to CPR are critical components of surviving a cardiac arrest. There is simply no time during a rescue to read directions on a CPR poster.

Posters do not Answer Questions

CPR is one of the most complicated yet simple medical procedures out there. Although there are only a few steps and they are fairly straight forward and easy to practice, they stand between life and death for the victim. Most students learning to perform CPR have questions about the procedure, the background behind it, and the conditions of its use. A trained instructor is able to answer these questions and clarify learners’ understandings of CPR. A printed CPR poster is not going to clarify misunderstandings or provide additional explanations. The printed poster is just going to hang there. Students need to have a qualified authority to turn to when learning CPR; someone that can answer questions and ensure complete and correct understandings are forming.

Posters may have Incorrect or Out-dated Information

CPR guidelines change over time. The American Heart Association, responsible for compiling the latest medical findings and updates, occasionally changes the protocol to reflect new learning and do a better job of saving lives. Once a poster is created, it is generally not changed. Using an old CPR poster puts the rescuer and the victim at a disadvantage and increases the change of low-quality CPR being delivered.

The Big Picture

Replacing high quality CPR training with a CPR poster is not a good idea. It does not adequately prepare rescuers to save lives and increases the chance of fatality from sudden cardiac arrest. Recognized CPR educators, like CPR Select, provide easy access to high quality training and increase a rescuer’s chance of saving a life when performing CPR. When it comes to saving the life of a friend or loved one, don’t skimp on the preparation. Register for a CPR certification course instead.