Why Companies Should Train Workers to Respond to Emergencies

Dec. 18, 2017
Medical emergencies can happen anywhere and at any time. Are you and your workers prepared?

In case of emergency, would your employees know what to do?

I’m specifically referring to medical emergencies, and I have two personal reasons for asking this question. As the president of a specialty healthcare company as well as 35 years in the industry, I know that there’s a fine line between “fine” and “I need help now!” I’ve seen the aftermath when healthy, active people temporarily are felled by accident or illness.

This leads to my second reason for posing the question. I recently had an experience where my training in emergency medical response proved valuable, to say the least.

While waiting to board a flight for Houston with my colleague, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Adam Burick, an announcement was broadcast — a doctor was needed. We assumed that someone was sick and headed to the area identified in the announcement.

On the ground was a man who had no pulse — he’d suffered a heart attack. Adam took over cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) after a well-intentioned, but probably untrained person had started the procedure. I asked for the automated external defibrillator (AED). Using the AED, we brought the man back to life and kept him alive until the paramedics arrived.

During the entire episode, I was very aware of one thing: panic. Not mine, but the panic around me. Lots of people were completely unsure about what to do. A flight attendant had to be taken off a plane. Vital minutes simply were lost because no one had the training to respond properly to the emergency.

If Adam and I hadn’t been there, the outcome for the man who’d had the heart attack would have been very different. In a medical emergency, whether it’s heart attack, an injury from an accident or sudden onset vomiting, every minute counts.

Medical emergencies happen more often than people are aware. Take air travel, for instance. A study published in The New England Journal of Medicine, in 2013, reviewed records of in-flight medical emergency calls (from five domestic and international airlines) to a physician-directed medical communications center from Jan. 1, 2008 through Oct. 31, 2010. The results showed there were 11,920 in-flight medical emergencies, or one medical emergency per 604 flights.

My own experience at the airport solidified for me just how important it is that everyone, including every one of my workers, has the training and skills they need to help during an emergency. I’m not alone in my thinking in the healthcare industry. Emergencies occur so often in family practice offices (about once a year, according to this article published on American Family Physician) that the American Association of Family Physicians (AAFP) has created a best practices guide for doctors (also in the article.)

I think this sort of training easily can be overlooked in the health industry. In a clinic, hospital or skilled care facility there are plenty of doctors and nurses available, right? But think how few of the staff, overall, have actual medical training. The administrative support, environmental services and social workers are all part of the team, and might be the person closest at hand if a visitor or patient has an episode.

What about outside work — for instance, the grocery store? Training your employees isn’t just for the benefit of your company; it’s for the benefit of anyone who needs help anywhere your colleagues frequent.

A 2014 report released by the American Heart Association states about 326,200 people experienced out-of-hospital cardiac arrests (OHCA) in the U.S. in 2011. Only 10.6 percent of those that utilized emergency medical services survived. Lastly,  only 31.4 percent of individuals who had a heart rhythm that could be treated with a defibrillator (ventricular fibrillation-VF or ventricular tachycardia-VT) survived of the of the recorded 19,300 bystander-witnessed cases.

Clearly, good training goes a long way when it comes to saving lives.

Implementing a solid training program is pretty simple. Both the American Red Cross and the American Heart Association offer courses, including programs that specifically target health care providers. I can’t emphasize enough the need for hands-on training. YouTube videos are fine if you want to refresh your memory about how to change the oil in your car, but hands-on training with a mannequin and the close supervision of a trained instructor is the way to go for CPR/AED and first aid.

How to get your employees behind this? Make it mandatory and make it on company time. Also, take the time to explain why the initiative is important.

Work with managers to be sure the timing of the training is convenient for each team, and then find out what would add some fun to the training time. Providing lunch or snacks always is a good start.

However you make it happen, remember — making sure your employees properly are trained in CPR/AED and first aid could be the difference between life and death.

Anthony Misitano, principal, president and CEO of Post Acute Medical LLC is responsible for strategic direction, development and the overall operation of the business. With more than 25 years of executive healthcare experience, Tony successfully has developed a variety of growth initiatives and strategic planning projects for long-term acute care and rehabilitation hospitals across the country.

About the Author

Anthony Misitano

Anthony Misitano, principal, president and CEO of Post Acute Medical LLC,is responsible for strategic direction, development and the overall operation of the business. With more than 25 years of executive healthcare experience, Tony successfully has developed a variety of growth initiatives and strategic planning projects for long-term acute care and rehabilitation hospitals across the country.

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