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I am often asked for clarification on the rules about how long a first aid and CPR certification is valid for.  You would think this would be an easy question to answer but that is far from the case.  There is really no clear-cut answer out there so I have come up with an answer that I think makes sense and based on the most current science.

Isn’t First Aid and CPR The Same?

First Aid and CPR really are two separate programs.  First aid teaches you how to care for a wide array of medical and traumatic emergencies.  CPR on the other hand focuses on cardiovascular emergencies such as heart attack, stroke and sudden cardiac arrest.  All first aid courses include CPR training but not all CPR programs include first aid.

Ok, Who Regulates First Aid?

In Ontario first aid is regulated by WSIB under regulation 1101.  I know you’re asking yourself, why is an insurance company regulating first aid?  Makes no sense but that is the way it is.

The occupational health and safety act requires organizations in Ontario to comply with regulation 1101 irrelevant of their status with WSIB.  According to the regulations CPR must be taught in an approved first aid course.  Certification in First aid and CPR is valid for up to 3 years depending on the training organization.  CPR on the other hand is valid for between 1 and 2 years depending on the training organization.

What about CPR?

On the other hand, CPR must meet and comply with the International Liaison Committee on Resuscitations (ILCOR) guidelines as published by the American Heart Association.   ILCOR is a committee with representation from major nations who study resuscitation science and agree on the best practices for the coming 5 years.  These standards are then published and become known as the guidelines.  The most recent guidelines were published on October 15, 2015.

What does the Science Say?

Core skills and knowledge of CPR deteriorates quickly.  Research suggests that these lifesaving skills are lost in just 3 – 12 months.  ILCOR stated in the 2015 guidelines that a 2-year certification period is too long and not appropriate.  They did not put a time on certification rather suggesting that frequent hands on retraining be employed.

When a life is in the balance we need to act fast.  We need the confidence and confidence to be able to respond quickly.  Survival from out of hospital cardiac arrest varies at between 7 – 15 percent.  Poorer outcomes are see in the pediatric population at between 4 and 12%.

CPR is started prior to professional responders arriving 45 – 50% of the time.  Often CPR is performed poorly with inadequate depth and rate of compressions.  AED use is prior to professional responders is even worse with only 2 – 3% of all cases receiving this vital lifesaving procedure.

The research suggests that we practice our CPR and recertify annually to improve survival.  Without regular training and practice lay responders often are unwilling to help as they lack the confidence and competence to perform.

What does this really mean?

First aid recertification intervals of up to 3 years is acceptable provided the learner is renewing CPR at least every year.  CPR is the skills need to save a life.  I am not saying that first aid is not important because it is but CPR is vital.  That is why most certification cards state that annual CPR recertification is recommended or required.

We understand the costs associated with regular CPR recertification.  We recognize the importance of improving outcomes in cardiac arrest survival and that will only be accomplished by regular training and practice.  The costs associated with a poor outcome will be far greater than the costs for regular training.

You really do have the ability to save a life in your hands.  Now we just need to ensure that everyone gets the practice they need to be confident, competent and ready to respond.