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CPR Instruction Potentially Dangerous

From : New Zealand Resuscitation Council

CPR Instruction Potentially Dangerous

The New Zealand Resuscitation Council (NZRC) is looking into the possibility that CPR/first aid tuition being delivered by certain training groups to lay people in New Zealand may be seriously unacceptable and potentially dangerous.

The Chairman of the NZRC, Assoc Professor Duncan Galletly said that:

” Although at this stage we do not know the magnitude of the problem, it would appear that the inadequate knowledge of some CPR instructors working individually, or for training organizations, may result in the imparting of skills that are potentially harmful.”

“Some of the resuscitation practices being taught are now years out of date, some are unheard of, some are clearly dangerous, some appropriate for health professionals only, and some appear to be made up at the whim of the instructor”.

“We have a recent instance where the instructor agreed with a student that breaking the ribs of a cardiac arrest victim would help with the performance of CPR; that “children do not die of choking”, and not to worry about neck fractures in victims of road trauma. Another where the instructor advocated blowing through the victim’s nose to clear the airway of water after drowning.”

“As well as the imparting of questionable skills, some instructors attitudes, in particular professional arrogance, were a concern. The belief that anyone who has a health professional background is automatically a capable and “expert” resuscitation instructor to laypeople is a fallacy.”

The NZRC is also concerned that low standards of training extend to credits offered through the NZQA framework. Many students attend first aid/resuscitation courses as part of Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) requirements.

Pip Mason, deputy chairperson said that:

“It appears that in some instances students are being given credits from the NZQA framework without any assessment whatsoever. In fact students may be asked to simply assess their own competence! Given that these units are OSH requirements for first-aiders in the workplace, the lack of assessment means that the qualification in some instances is meaningless and provides no guarantee that the recipient has attained any knowledge in first aid or resuscitation.”

“Unfortunately the majority of students, who know little about resuscitation to start with, may not realise that the guidelines or practices being taught are incorrect, and may be only too happy to forego the assessment procedures.”

“The NZRC attempts to standardize the guidelines and teaching of resuscitation throughout New Zealand in line with modern international science. It certifies instructors nationally to ensure that they are exposed to the most recent guidelines. Many trainers throughout New Zealand are NZRC certified instructors, however some organizations do not require their instructors to be externally certified by the NZRC, relying instead purely on internal quality procedures. In a commercial environment internal audit is not conducive to quality.”

In order to assess how widespread the problems in resuscitation education are, the NZRC wishes to hear from anyone who has attended a CPR/first aid course and has felt that the standard of training they have received has been unacceptable. Detailed comments should be addressed to the NZRC, PO Box 7343, Wellington or emailed to

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