Madison and other communities in Wisconsin have more people who can help in an emergency because students are now being required to learn CPR.
That’s because when a cardiac arrest victim collapses, their chance of survival diminishes 10 percent with each minute until CPR starts, according to the American Heart Association. However, if a bystander begins CPR before first responders arrive, a victim’s chance of survival can double or even triple.
A state law implemented in the 2017-2018 school year requires that students in classes covering health education receive instruction in cardiopulmonary and cardiocerebral resuscitation once between seventh and 12th grades. They also must receive automated external defibrillator (AED) instruction.
“You never know if somebody around you might go into cardiac arrest, especially if it’s a stranger. You don’t know their health history,” West High School sophomore Sadie Foshay said. “I like that they are teaching it in school and you don’t have to be a medical professional because anyone can be a lifesaver.”
West sophomore Will Gutknecht, who plays quarterback on the football team, said he expected it would be harder to administer the compressions.
“Everybody should know how to do it. It’s really important,” he said.
Ashley Riley, physical education, health and wellness coordinator for the Madison School District, said the district provided teachers with professional development to prepare for the new requirement. Curriculum and instruction staff in the district and the health education lead teacher team put together a teacher resources guide to help with instructional planning. The guide also connects teachers with community departments.
While students learn about CPR, the requirement is for students to practice hands-only compressions— not rescue breaths — and they do not need to get certified. The other part of the law is to get instruction on what AED is, but schools are not required to have students practice how to use it, Riley said.
Riley said some teachers have included the instruction in units where heart health also was discussed, but that is not required.
Michaela Kroll, an assistant track coach who is in her first year teaching health and physical education at West, had students go on a scavenger hunt to find all of the automated external defibrillators at the school.
“It’s really important and a great idea to give kids the skills they need to not only keep themselves healthy but be able to respond in an emergency,” Kroll said about the health and wellness class she teaches.
The task of getting Madison students trained got a boost from CPR in Schools. The statewide program, funded by a grant from the Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin Endowment, has trained teachers and equipped more than 300 Wisconsin schools with materials to train middle and high school students in hands-only CPR.
CPR in Schools has been led by Cooperative Educational Service Agency (CESA) No. 7 and the Department of Emergency Medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin. The Wisconsin EMS Association assisted with providing experienced trainers for these sessions, and the American Heart Association created the CPR in Schools kits, which are provided to schools. A number of other partners also were involved.
A goal of CPR in Schools was to help schools forge relationships with local community partners, such as EMS departments, that can help schools continue CPR training for years to come, said Krystal Webb, communications director for the American Heart Association in Madison.
Many Madison schools qualified to receive a free CPR school kit. They normally can cost about $650, Riley said.
“I am so grateful we have had opportunities to have partnerships ... manikins are not cheap,” she said.
“I definitely think it is an essential skill to have in health education,” Riley said. “People have heart attacks and things happen. ... if you haven’t any exposure to that, you wouldn’t necessarily have those skills.”