The new changes to first aid and CPR guidelines being implemented by a number of Canadian agencies are meant not just to save more lives, but to make the public more confident to intervene in a medical emergency, says a training specialist with St. John Ambulance in B.C. and the Yukon.

Training development manager Keith Tyler said it is "hugely concerning" that a recent online survey found that only 50 per cent of Canadians feel confident responding to a heart attack or other cardiac emergency

"We know that the first one to four minutes of a cardiac arrest are the most vital and the best time in order to intervene on that patient's' behalf," Tyler told B.C. Almanac host Michelle Eliot.

"We've got fantastic paramedics. We've got fantastic firefighters. We've got fantastic first responders, but they cannot get there in that time, so we — as the rest of the public in B.C. — need to step in and we need to take some action in that time."

National first aid/CPR conference

Tyler is currently in Toronto for the first-ever national conference focused on first aid and resuscitation, where new recommendations to the Canadian First Aid and CPR Guidelines are being rolled out.

These recommendations, which will become part of first aid and CPR courses across the country, were suggested and reviewed by the Red Cross, Heart and Stroke, St. John Ambulance, the Canadian Ski Patrol and the Lifesaving Society.

Tyler said he hopes the changes will give the public more confidence.

According to a recent survey by Nielsen Consumer Insights for the Red Cross, only 50 per cent of Canadians feel confident helping in a medical emergency for a heart attack or other cardiac emergency, 48 per cent for a severe allergic reaction, 47 per cent for a concussion, 42 per cent for a stroke and 33 per cent for a psychotic episode.

Boosting confidence through new training, technology

"People feel that, 'Oh the ambulance will only be a couple of minutes, I'll wait until the professionals get here'," said Tyler, adding that other people may also worry that they don't remember their training, or are concerned that they will make the situation worse if they intervene.

He said St. John Ambulance is considering offering "bite-size refresher training" in between the usual one, two and three-year updates to first aid and CPR certification, delivered through one's smartphone or tablet.

He also said that their training will also encourage people to use their phone to call 911 if they want some guidance while doing CPR or first aid.

"If you know it, fantastic, because that is better. But somebody who's that little bit hesitant — who doesn't want to get involved, is scared of doing it wrong — just having that voice on the other end of the phone saying, 'No, it's okay, you're doing the right thing'. That really helps with survival."

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