An estimated 340,000 people die annually from out-of-hospital cardiac arrest. Barbara Riegel, DNSc, RN, associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, urges everyday citizens to learn how to use life-saving AEDs to help prevent some of those deaths. You don't need to be in medical expert to get started, either: Riegel stressed that advances in AED technology allow anyone to safely use the device.
"Historically, only physicians were trained in and allowed to use defibrillators," she explained. "Now the technology has developed to the point that the machine reads the rhythm, so no one – not physicians, nurses, or lay people – needs to interpret the rhythm before using a defibrillator. These machines do it with excellent accuracy."
Riegel added that no matter what TV shows might lead us to believe, an AED will not "shock" the patient or disrupt the normal heart rhythm. When it comes to AEDs, there's nothing to fear – unless no one near the cardiac patient is trained to use one.
"People are no longer questioning whether laypersons can be trusted to use defibrillators; people now view AEDs in the same light at CPR," she said.
So the next time you watch an on-screen nurse or doctor shout "Clear!" while using an AED, remember that anyone can – and should – learn how to safely use the device. Even you.