Most of us remember the first time we performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). For me, it was in the Medical Intensive Care Unit where I was working as a staff nurse. I was a new graduate, and it was emotional, traumatic and exhausting. Unfortunately, the patient did not survive. Immediately after his death, I had to change gears and care for my other patient who was weaning from the ventilator and whose family had just arrived to visit. After a brief update for them, I performed postmortem care on the deceased patient and prepared for his family’s arrival. The shift was a busy one and there was no time to debrief, let alone acknowledge what had just happened.
On Monday, January 2, 2023, Damar Hamlin, safety for the Buffalo Bills, suffered a cardiac arrest
after making a tackle during a football game against the Cincinnati Bengals. He was resuscitated on the field for several minutes, and fortunately, he is now in stable condition and showing neurological improvement.
Immediately following his collapse and resuscitation, the game was suspended, and it has since been decided that it will not be resumed
. In the following days, the mental health
of Hamlin’s teammates, Bengals players, and other witnesses – both on and off the field – has been a focus.
In other recent news, during a New Year’s Day Philadelphia Eagles game, a medical resident and nurse performed CPR on a fan
in the stands after his collapse. The fan survived and was transported to the hospital.
Lessons Learned about CPR and Mental Health
We know that cardiac arrest occurs both in clinical and nonclinical settings more than nonmedical persons may realize. In the two instances above, CPR was lifesaving and there were many witnesses to the traumatic events. What can we learn from this?
- Learning CPR is important. In school and on the job, we learn how to intervene in an emergency. CPR certification is required for nurses and other healthcare professionals, and we must maintain that certification throughout our careers. But what about when a professional is not present when CPR is necessary? There are opportunities for others to become certified through the American Red Cross and local healthcare facilities and emergency service organizations. Share this CPR Certification Tool and encourage others to learn how to respond to emergencies and become certified.
- Addressing mental health is essential. We know that mental health issues are prevalent among healthcare providers and suicide rates are higher than in the general population. Recognizing warning signs in ourselves and our colleagues and taking the time to debrief or seeking professional help must be prioritized. Please review and share these resources:
As nurses, we realize the importance of being prepared and we are familiar with the trauma of administering and witnessing CPR. We also tend to put the needs of others ahead of our own – it’s what we’ve been trained to do. However, we can’t continue to ask so much of ourselves and our colleagues; it’s not sustainable. Let’s take a lesson from these recent events and prioritize self-care and look to our leaders and institutions to help foster well-being.