New legislation in North Carolina is requiring all high school students in the state to complete CPR training in order to graduate. Signed by Gov. Beverly Perdue in July, the law passed with 115 of 119 votes. CPR instruction will be rolled into Healthful Living, a required physical education course.
The law states high school students, beginning with the Class of 2015, must be instructed in first aid and emergency care, including CPR and the Heimlich maneuver, using nationally recognized programs such as those from the American Red Cross and American Heart Association.
Debbie Gilbert, RN, MSN, NCSN, past president of the School Nurses Association of North Carolina, said legislators are doing something very proactive for the state by preparing students to be equipped in emergency situations. The law aims to lower the number of cardiac-related deaths. “North Carolina has tried to be a leader in the educational process, and that includes health and well-being,” she said.Debbie Gilbert, RN
In Polk County, where Gilbert is a school nurse, physical education teachers are trained in CPR. According to Gilbert, no decisions have been made about whether school nurses will help to instruct the students, but they may have a role if theyre certified CPR instructors. Sharing their knowledge will be helpful to students and prepare them for situations in and out of the school setting, she said. “School nurses may teach some components of the class, but their job may be more of facilitator,” she said.
School nurses in North Carolina often are shared by more than one school, making it impractical for them to teach CPR, said Darlene Dunn, RN, BSN, AHA CPR/First Aid instructor. She added they would have to complete the teaching course — which would have to be paid by the high schools — to become certified CPR instructors if their schools needed them to serve in this capacity.
“Just having a CPR certification card does not qualify you to teach,” she said. “Unless they pay for school nurses to become certified instructors, they would not be able to instruct. In our county, at least, they dont have the funds.”
The legislation means young people will possess confidence to help in any emergency situation, she said.
Dunn has been training nurses and laypeople in CPR for eight years in Wake County, just north of Raleigh. She said many jobs in the state require CPR certification. “I personally dont hire a babysitter if theyve not been trained,” Dunn said.
She uses the AHAs practice and watch approach with videos to instruct students as young as 13. Increasing the number of people in the state who can perform CPR “increases the chance of survival because you decrease the delay in getting help,” she said.
If future tracking indicates a lower number of cardiac-related deaths, Dunn believes other states may sign similar bills. “Depending on how its rolled out and the effectiveness of it, it could definitely set a precedent,” she said.
North Carolina is the fifth state to pass such a bill, joining Alabama, Iowa, Minnesota and Tennessee.
Find out more: www.ncga.state.nc.us/Sessions/2011/Bills/House/PDF/H837v5.pdf