JEFFERSON — Someone somewhere in Jefferson County has a heart attack. Family spring into action — yet a few minutes pass before 911 is called.
EMS immediately gets on the road, but depending on the weather, time of day, traffic and location, it could be
10 minutes before they arrive.
Once they do, the EMTs begin working to save the person’s life, but by then, valuable time has been lost. Every moment in a cardiac event is important, so the faster CPR can be started, the greater the chance of survival.
“Even in real life when we’re right on scene doing CPR, statistics are against us when we arrive even minutes after cardiac experience,” Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Jeff Parker said.
That’s why dispatchers at the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office recently underwent training to walk callers through giving CPR.
Historically, the dispatchers have used their own CPR training to take people through the steps. But now, Wisconsin Act 296 requires that, by 2021, all dispatchers either provide scripted instructions or be able to transfer to a call center that does.
On Monday, Nov. 25, the entire dispatch staff at the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office 911 Center completed training in Telecommunicator CPR or Dispatch Assisted Bystander CPR.
The Dispatch Assisted Bystander CPR program is dedicated to increasing the overall cardiac arrest survival rate within the state. Through funding provided by Advancing Healthier Wisconsin Endowment Healthier Wisconsin Partnership Program (HWPP), the Dispatcher CPR program will create a system change aimed at improving cardiac arrest survival rates in the state. This improvement will take place by making dispatcher-assisted bystander CPR pre-arrival instructions available to all callers in the state.
Out-of-hospital cardiac arrest is a significant health problem in Wisconsin, said Todd Lindert, communications supervisor at the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office. Only 10 percent of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest patients treated in the state survive to hospital discharge.
He noted that when CPR is started by bystanders, the odds of survival double; however, bystander CPR is attempted on only 19 percent of cardiac arrest victims in this state. This rate could be improved if every 911 caller received CPR coaching.
With the implementation of dispatcher-assisted CPR instructions in Seattle, Wash., the rate of bystander CPR doubled and survival rates for the entire county increased, Lindert said.
“The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office 911 Center is proud to be able to continue to provide the citizens of Jefferson County these enhanced services,” Lindert said.
While they can save lives, he explained, the most difficult part is convincing the person on the other end of the phone to do the CPR.
“We walk them through how to do it, and it’ll improve percentages, but you need somebody willing on the other end,” Lindert said. “Every minute is valuable; we convince them to keep going. You’re going to get tired, you’re going to break ribs, it’s going to happen, but it’s better than the alternative.”
Lindert said his dispatchers are professionals who know what they need to say to get someone to start CPR and keep going.
Parker agreed with Lindert that these calls are incredibly stressful because the job is twofold.
“(The dispatchers) literally go through the steps of having to walk through the panic stricken individual who is on the other end, trying to not only save the life of a loved one who is obviously in duress or a nonresponsive state, but here they are trying to calm that person down enough to get them through the step by step process,” Parker said.
But, Parker said, the goal is to save lives.
“It’s obviously better than nothing, giving the person an increased chance of survival if dispatchers weren’t there providing some sort of professional response and feedback,” Parker said.
Lindert said the most difficult part of the transition has been the dispatchers moving to using the scripts from the state on these calls rather than instinct. But, he said, he likes the uniformity of the care and the protection from liability it provides.
There are two dispatchers on duty at the sheriff’s office 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. They handle more than 30,000 calls per year, according to Parker, who called them the “front line” of the office.
A call for a cardiac event can be long and stressful. It also takes one of those two dispatchers completely out of service for the duration, Lindert said. Because of this, the dispatchers have developed a knack for saying and doing exactly what needs to be said and done.
“It takes one person out of the loop completely,” Lindert said. “They do everything they can. They work hard at convincing the person to do it.”