I received my first crash course in veterinary CPR this month. I was pleasantly surprised to learn of its similarities to human CPR, with which I am more familiar. Just as with people, beginning chest compressions immediately and keeping them as consistent as possible are the most critical and influential factors in a successful outcome.
After learning the basic CPR skills during a lecture, we were able to apply the techniques in three different scenarios with practice stuffed-animal models. Each model was equipped with a heart and lungs, a trachea and esophagus, a cephalic vein for IV catheter placement, and a pump to detect the presence and quality of femoral pulses. This was as real as it could be, and it was phenomenal!
We were given one minute to familiarize ourselves with our surroundings and available instruments and equipment. Then, the scenario was announced by our professor and we were off! One person began chest compressions (to the rhythm of Stayin’ Alive), with another timing to ensure that the compressor was switched every two minutes. Another student began placing an endotracheal tube, which we then tied in and began ventilating our patient with an Ambu bag. We quickly placed an IV catheter (covering ourselves with red dye in the process) and connected our ECG leads to monitor electrical cardiac function. Even though all of this felt like it took an eternity, the first compressor hadn’t even swapped out yet…it had been less than two minutes!
We continued this process for the next 20 minutes, administering a dose of atropine once the IV catheter was in, followed by epinephrine after every other two-minute compression cycle with close monitoring of the ECG rhythm. The ECG allowed us to make decisions regarding the use of the defibrillator.
With each scenario, we became more comfortable and confident with our roles and the procedure, even though we rotated responsibilities every time. It was an amazing learning experience that has the power to, someday, allow us to save a life.