I hope I am never in a situation when I would need cardiopulmonary resuscitation. But if I ever am, I also hope any individuals around me do not hesitate to perform CPR.
In a Dec. 7 NPR article titled “Meet the Womanikin — the breasted vest working to close the CPR gender gap,” Rachel Treisman writes, “Research shows that bystanders are less likely to perform CPR on women than men, and experts say superficial anatomical differences may lead people to assume chest compression must be performed differently on men and women, which is not true.”
She further writes on the reasons this disparity exists: “For instance, people don’t want to be perceived as assaulting a woman and might be fearful of hurting the victim or ending up in a lawsuit.”
That’s right, folks. “Superficial anatomical differences” — breasts — are one of the reasons the public is hesitant to perform CPR on women.
In a November 2017 study of data from more than 19,000 people in cardiac situations and conducted by a team led by Audrey Blewer, MPH, assistant director for educational programs at Penn’s Center for Resuscitation Science, the study found “only 39 percent of the women received CPR from strangers in public as compared to 45 percent of the men,” NPR shared in the article.
“Men’s odds of surviving were 23 percent higher than those of women,” the study also found.
Luckily, New York-based ad agency Joan Creative is trying to change that. Meet the Womanikin, an attachment with silicone breasts that gets placed on a mannequin.
“The idea behind this breasted vest — and the related awareness campaign — is to address gender disparities in training and performance of CPR, which is vital for anyone experiencing cardiac arrest,” the article states.
Dr. Holly Anderson, a cardiologist, a professor of clinical medicine and the director of education and outreach for Ronald O. Perelman Heart Institute who was interviewed for the NPR article, said Good Samaritan laws provide some protection against legal action in all 50 states.
Anderson added, “Because every minute without CPR decreases a person’s chances of survival by 10 percent, it is not enough just to wait for emergency responders to arrive — bystanders must be willing to act.”
Marion Leary, director of innovation at Penn Nursing, who was also interviewed, emphasized any feelings of cautiousness or embarrassment should never overcome giving someone CPR.
“You can’t hurt someone worse than dead,” Leary said in the interview. “If you do nothing and [that person] is in cardiac arrest, [he or she] will die.”
She also added the public could be less likely to perform CPR on women because bystanders are not as aware that women have cardiac arrests, too.
That’s one part of the awareness campaign — more breasted dummies for training will lead to greater understanding that women experience cardiac arrest.
“We’ve been training people relatively the same way since CPR was first discovered. We need to start thinking about how we can use the technology and innovation of today to really train people differently so they feel comfortable performing CPR when the time arises,” Leary told NPR.
Alice Henshaw, in her Wilderness Medical Associates CPR training courses, is trying to bring awareness to this effort as well. NPR said students in her classes have the opportunity to practice CPR on a Womanikin, in addition to a traditional mannequin.
In Tammy Turner’s CPR classes, she recently started putting shirts and bras on mannequins in order for her students to get used to performing CPR on all chests. Turner is a training center coordinator for a medical training facility, EdCor, located in Colorado.
I am hopeful the Womanikin, changes to CPR classes and media exposure will help decrease the CPR gender gap. In time, I pray future studies show no discrepancy between who receives CPR more often.
If a day would ever come that I would need CPR and emergency personnel tell me who saved my life, I’m not going to sue you — instead, you’ll get the biggest hug and thank you from me.