Julianna Paradisi, RN, OCN, is an oncology nurse navigator and writes a monthly post for this blog.
I was a child when I first heard the term CPR. My father, a volunteer fire captain in our community, had newly certified that day at drill. From the head of our dinner table he proclaimed, “It’s a terrible thing to have to do, but everyone should know how.”
He was right.
It feels as though I’ve known basic life support (BLS; sometimes still referred to as CPR) all my life, but I believe I was 16 years old when I first took a provider course, long before I knew I’d become a nurse.
Since then, as a former pediatric intensive care nurse, I have performed a lot of CPR, and a related professional compliment received during a pediatric resuscitation rests bittersweetly in my heart.
It was one of those codes that begins in the ED, and transfers into the PICU because survival is unlikely. The cause was cardiac. As I did compressions, and my colleague, a respiratory therapist, hand-ventilated the child, blood gases were drawn. The attending cardiologist looked over the results, and told us, “It’s too bad a perfect blood gas isn’t enough to save a life. The two of you are performing superb CPR.”
He was right. It wasn’t enough.
That was nearly 20 years ago. Basic life support recertification is required every two years. Now that I am an oncology nurse navigator, my chance of using the skill is like that of the general public. However, a current BLS card is mandatory.
Recently, I recertified. In the classroom, I reminded myself that the sequence of saving the life of the unresponsive is now circulation–airway–breathing (CAB) after decades of having been airway–breathing–circulation (ABC).
As I looked around the room, there was another change to contemplate: I was the old person in the group. As we paired off to perform the skills check, I saw the briefest flicker of disappointment in the eyes of the young ED nurse who became my partner. Her nose ring and tattoo sleeves defined our age difference. It didn’t help that I wore business casual, not scrubs. She was stuck with the old guy.
Suddenly I was that kid again, this time on the playground. The one picked last on the team. I wanted to tell her, “I used to do this as much as you do . . . I was really good at it,” but I knew this would make me sound even older.
We didn’t even tell each other our names; we just got to it. We completed our two-minute cycles, exchanging roles of first and second responder. The instructor watched in silence. “Okay you two, you’re done,” was all she said, and walked away to observe and correct the other teams, and then correct some more.
My young partner and I sat across from one another, separated by the genderless practice manikin. When did they stop being Resusci-Annies? I don’t remember. It took us a minute to realize we had performed a perfect BLS skills check. The young ED nurse turned to me and said, “We just saved a life,” and high-fived me, smiling.
I left the class with a renewed BLS card, a restored sense of confidence, and a new professional compliment in my heart.