After receiving or renewing your CPR certification, you may feel empowered and good about your potential to help someone in need. However, that little voice in the back of your head might make you wonder if you really know everything you should. 

There’s a lot more to CPR than head angle, compression depth and breathing technique. From the fear of a lawsuit to the fear of failing, the best courses prepare you for some of the lesser-discussed realities associated with CPR.

Let’s look at six topics many CPR classes fail to address – and, hopefully, put your mind at ease regarding them:

  1. Fear of a lawsuit

    No one wants to be sued – especially for doing the right thing. Thankfully, Good Samaritan laws have your back. Every state has one and they apply to anyone who acts in good faith to save another person. In fact, new research from the American Heart Association (AHA) indicates you may face a greater risk of legal action for not providing help.1
  2. Fear of disease

    It is understandable to feel concerned about disease transmission. Equipment like gloves and one-way rescue masks protect you against any pathogens. If you don’t have these things, you can always administer hands-only CPR. Research has shown that, especially with adults, hands-only CPR can be just as effective as full CPR.
  3. Fear of hurting or killing the person

    A person who is unconscious, is not breathing normally, and has no pulse, has technically already died – nothing you do can make their condition worse. In fact, you can only make it better.

    CPR requires you to press hard enough to restart the heart, often breaking ribs or causing other injuries. But, those injuries should be considered more than worth bringing the person back to life. You may also hear crunching sounds when cartilage separates from the sternum. This is akin to cracking your knuckles and causes no actual injury.
  4. Fear of failure

    Recalling what you learned in a controlled setting in the middle of an emergent and often chaotic setting may make you second guess your skills. First, remember that the person already died so you cannot make matters worse. You may even find it helpful to take a refresher CPR class every so often to keep your skills sharp, given that a CPR certification generally lasts two full years.
  5. CPR doesn’t always work

    This is a fact we may not like but it’s a fact nonetheless – and one more people need to know. Even at its best, CPR only delivers a fraction of what the body needs to survive. It aims to buy time until EMTs arrive. Even when you do everything correctly, the patient may not revive. When this happens, you did not fail.

    In fact, by performing CPR, you succeeded by giving the person a chance to live – a chance they would not otherwise have had. The administration of CPR – not the outcome – should be viewed as the measure of success.
  6. Fear of getting injured yourself

    Some scenes – such as a busy intersection or dark highway – put your life in danger. In these situations, calling 911 is the best and only course of action. If you get hurt, you can’t help the person. Remaining safe until help arrives is your best bet here.

Anyone certified to perform CPR should embrace these realities and be prepared not only to take action when needed, but to be at peace with themselves regardless of the outcome. And, don’t hesitate to ask about these – or other – topics during your next CPR class. Any reputable instructor will be glad you did – and you should, too.

1   Worried about legal risk of doing CPR? Inaction is riskier, American Heart Association, published November 13, 2019, accessed December 8, 2020, https://www.heart.org/en/news/2019/11/13/worried-about-legal-risk-of-doing-cpr-inaction-is-riskier

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