Nursing studies

Leading on a cardiac arrest made me confident in giving CPR

Aiding a woman after a heart attack made a student more confident in handling emergencies and giving CPR

Aiding a woman after a heart attack made a student more confident in handling emergencies and giving CPR

Welsh Ambulance Service paramedics aiding a woman who had a fall at home.
Picture: Alamy

Three weeks into my first year of nurse training I led the resuscitation attempt on a woman having an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest.

It was October 2016, and I was at a bingo hall with my mother and late grandmother when the woman, who was in her fifties, collapsed.

By the time I reached her a crowd had gathered around her and she had been put in the recovery position. But I noticed she was showing signs of cyanosis.


At university that day we had received basic life support (BLS) training. Remembering the first aid mnemonic DR ABC – danger, response, airway, breathing and circulation – I assessed the situation and asked everyone to move out of the way.

I called the woman’s name but she didn’t respond, so I checked her airway, which was clear, then listened for ten seconds while looking at her chest for rise and fall. There was no respiratory effort and her pulse was very erratic.

An ambulance had been called and someone had gone to fetch the automated external defibrillator (AED) while I started cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

When the AED arrived, I asked a member of staff who had BLS training to continue chest compressions while I applied the defibrillator pads. A rhythm check showed the woman had abnormal heart rhythm SVT (supraventricular tachycardia) and a shock was advised.

Needing to stay focused

After ensuring everyone was clear, I delivered the shock. It was a tight space to work in and I was the only healthcare professional present, but I knew the importance of remaining calm and focused during CPR.

It was also crowded with people trying to help, but I managed to control the situation and assign roles to staff members to ensure the safety of all present.

Just as the paramedics arrived, the woman had a return of spontaneous circulation (ROSC). I told the paramedics what had happened and they took over her care and took her to hospital.

Before starting my nurse training I was a healthcare support worker on an acute respiratory ward, so had been involved in cardiac arrest responses in a hospital setting. But my role was usually timekeeping and scribing, and I had only given chest compressions once before.

Successful outcome

I couldn’t sleep that night due to worry as I did not know the outcome. I wasn’t sure if I had done enough, but felt I had acted in the patient’s best interests and done everything I could to help. To my relief, I was informed a few weeks later that the woman had undergone cardiac surgery and was recovering.

Later I found out I was to be awarded a certificate from the Welsh Ambulance Service. The woman attended the presentation with family members and told me that her cardiologist had said that if I hadn’t been there she might not be alive. This made me feel proud of my actions, and just grateful that I was able to help.

I am now in my third and final year of training and have been involved in many cardiac arrests, but I will always remember this experience. As well as improving my confidence in delivering CPR, it showed me that I can lead and manage emergency situations, a skill which I will carry with me throughout my nursing career.


Toby Rees-Davies is a third-year adult nursing student at the University of Cardiff

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