Hillcrest School CPR

Students at Hillcrest School practise chest compressions on Wednesday. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC)

Middle school students at Hillcrest School in Moncton are ready to react if they come across someone in a cardiac arrest.

On Wednesday, Ambulance New Brunswick paramedics taught them how to save a life with hands-only CPR. They split into groups and performed chest compressions to the 1970s song, Stayin' Alive by the Bee Gees. They also learned how to operate and find a defibrillator.

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation is a first-aid procedure for an unconscious person whose breathing or pulse has stopped.

In previous years, this type of training for cardiac arrest was reserved for teens and adults, said Susan Dugas of Ambulance New Brunswick. She said their goal now is to teach the skills early.

'This is an excellent idea to show them, 'You have arrived, you can help out, you are a young adult … you can really help us out'" - Peter Trainor, Hillcrest School principal

"I think it's an exciting opportunity for Ambulance N.B. and kids to partner together and help save lives," said Dugas.

Students say they feel more comfortable using hands-only CPR, rather than learning mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, which used to be part of the standard CPR procedure.

"I used to get taught the old way, now I know the new way [and] it's much easier," said Noah Rocca, a student at Hillcrest.

"Now that they're teaching younger people, it's more likely that [people suffering cardiac arrest] are going to be able to survive."

Instructional video to be shown across N.B.

The CPR lessons for Hillcrest students will be part of an instructional video to be be shown province-wide.

Peter Trainor, the school principal, helped organize the event. He said Grades 5 through 8 are important ages to learn how to take charge.

"Sometimes our middle school guys, they're in that kind of funky land between elementary and high school. They grow a foot a year," said Trainor.

"So sometimes they don't really know where they are. And I think this is an excellent idea to show them, 'You have arrived, you can help out, you are a young adult, get on board kid because you can really help us out.'

"And I think that's a very valid point that they certainly feel very proud of what they've done."

Paramedics hope the video will get more children interested in lifesaving skills.

According to Ambulance New Brunswick, someone in Canada goes into cardiac arrest every 12 minutes.

Less than five per cent of people who suffer an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest survive.

CPR is traditionally defined as a combination of chest compressions and ventilation, also known as mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, with the aim of protecting the heart and brain until the heart resumes pumping in a normal rhythm.

But research suggests hands-only chest compression by amateur bystanders is enough to save a life. 

The latest guidelines, which are reviewed every five years, now aim to move blood in the victim more effectively with more forceful compressions, according to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada.