We’ve all seen the medical drama TV shows, and we’ve all seen their portrayal of CPR – someone falls down, clutching their chest in pain, the hero jumps to the rescue, and after a few quick chest pumps and dramatic open-mouthed breaths, the injured character gasps back to life, possibly sharing a passionate kiss with his or her savior. Or, if a comedic effect is desired, getting angry at the idea of their rescuer using the opportunity only to try to steal a kiss. But is this portrayal of CPR accurate?

Truth Behind the Screen

As it turns out, TV CPR is portrayed wildly inaccurately on multiple accounts – the first of which being success rates. A 1996 article in the New England Journal of Medicine looked closely at the discrepancy between the success rates of CPR on and off the screen, finding some stark differences. In television shows, patients undergoing CPR had revival rates of between 66-75%. What’s more, as soon as the TV patients come to (which generally happens within a minute or two), they are often completely back to full health. In the real world, long-term CPR revival rates hover a bit above 10%. And if patients do wake up – which usually doesn’t happen until professional medical care arrives – the general reaction is vomiting, groaning, and feeling awful. This is not at all to say that CPR is not a vital and life-saving technique, but the media may lead us to believe it to be a cure-all when in reality it is a last ditch effort.

The second major area of inaccuracy in onscreen CPR is how it’s performed. TV CPR performers have notoriously bad posture and technique, and many CPR raining professionals (including us!) cringe at the thought of someone doing that in real life. On TV, CPR is usually a reserved activity that requires light pushing on the chest and dramatic mouth hugging. In reality, CPR is a technique that is often expected to break the patient’s ribs – now there’s something you don’t see on TV.

Your Local Vancouver, WA Safety Training Resource

The truth is that CPR is not an innate ability, but a skill that needs to be learned – and an important one. The difference between proper and improper technique can be the difference between life and death. At Code 3 Training, we make it our priority to ensure that you and your team know what to do in case of an emergency, instead of just guessing based on what you’ve seen on TV. Our CPR, First Aid, and ICS courses will give you and your team the right skills and the right knowledge to be prepared, no matter what might happen. Feel free to take a look around our site to find out more or contact us if you have any questions or want to inquire about training. And next time you see CPR on TV, let us know how real it looks to you!


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