Why learning CPR is so important

In our fast-paced world, anyone can find themselves in a life-threatening situation at any moment. One of the most critical scenarios is sudden cardiac arrest. It can strike without warning, whether at home, at work, or in public spaces. In the Netherlands, approximately 17,000 people suffer cardiac arrest outside the hospital each year. These alarming figures highlight the crucial importance of knowing and being able to perform Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR).

What is CPR?

CPR is a life-saving technique used when someone’s breathing or heartbeat has stopped. This could be due to a heart attack, drowning, or other medical emergencies. The procedure involves chest compressions and rescue breaths to help maintain circulatory flow and oxygenation during cardiac arrest until professional medical help arrives.

Why learning CPR is essential

1. Increase survival rates

In cases of cardiac arrest, every second counts. The chances of survival decrease by 10% with each minute that passes without intervention. Performing CPR can double or even triple a person’s chances of survival. In the Netherlands, the survival rate after cardiac arrest is significantly higher when a bystander performs CPR before the arrival of emergency services. According to the Dutch Heart Foundation, early CPR combined with the use of an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) can increase survival rates up to 50-70%.

2. Immediate response

Emergency services, no matter how efficient, take time to arrive. In the Netherlands, the average ambulance response time is around 8-12 minutes. In rural areas, this can be even longer. Immediate CPR can bridge the gap, keeping vital blood flow to the brain and other organs, thus preventing severe damage or death.

3. Widespread incidents

Cardiac arrests can happen anywhere and to anyone, regardless of age, gender, or health status. About 80% of out-of-hospital cardiac arrests in the Netherlands occur at home, which means that the life you save is likely to be someone you know—a family member, a friend, or a neighbour. Knowing CPR equips you to act confidently and effectively in such critical moments.

4. Community preparedness

A community with widespread CPR knowledge is a safer community. The Netherlands has a commendable system where citizens can register as CPR volunteers, ready to respond to nearby emergencies. This system, known as HartslagNu, has nearly 241,000 registered volunteers. The integration of this system has shown positive outcomes in improving response times and survival rates. The more people trained in CPR, the more robust and effective this network becomes.

5. Empowerment and confidence

Learning CPR not only prepares you to save lives but also instills a sense of confidence and empowerment. Knowing that you have the skills to intervene in a life-threatening situation can reduce the feeling of helplessness and increase your readiness to act in emergencies.

How to learn CPR

Several organizations in the Netherlands offer CPR training courses, including the Red Cross, the Hartstichting (Dutch Heart Foundation), and various local health organisations. These courses typically cover the basics of CPR, the use of an AED, and how to handle different emergency scenarios.

Steps in CPR

  1. Check responsiveness and breathing: Ensure the person is unresponsive and not breathing normally.
  2. Call for help: Dial emergency services and have someone fetch an AED if available.
  3. Start chest compressions: Place your hands in the centre of the chest and push hard and fast, about 100-120 compressions per minute.
  4. Rescue breaths: After 30 compressions, give 2 rescue breaths if trained and comfortable doing so.
  5. Continue until help arrives: Keep performing CPR until emergency personnel take over or the person shows signs of life. Important – don’t stop when you see emergency personnel arrive. They may still need to get their equipment out. Stop when they tell you to.

CPR is a vital skill that can mean the difference between life and death. With around 17,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occurring annually in the Netherlands, the importance of widespread CPR knowledge cannot be overstated. By learning CPR, you not only increase the chances of survival for victims of cardiac arrest but also contribute to a safer, more prepared community. Take the step today to learn CPR—because every second counts, and you could save a life.