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Columbia 911 Communications District to train telecommunicators on taking CPR calls

PMG FILE PHOTO - Columbia 911 Communications District emergency dispatchers will receive training through a program called Resuscitation Quality Improvement - Telecommunicator, or RQI-T, which will help call-takers learn to more quickly identify when cardiac arrest is happening and when hands-only CPR is needed. The training will help all dispatchers better assess the needs of those in emergency situations and provide aid that will help save lives. Columbia 911 Communications District plans to implement a new training program for dispatchers to more efficiently handle calls involving cardiac arrest.

The program is called Resuscitation Quality Improvement - Telecommunicator, or RQI-T, said Mike Fletcher, executive director for the 911 district.

Columbia 911 is the first Public Safety Answering Point in the nation to adopt the program, a press release from the agency states.

The goal is to provide feedback and training for emergency call-takers so they are better prepared, and better qualified to assist people in emergencies that involve cardiac arrest and CPR, or cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

"We do that today, take cardiac arrest, CPR calls, all the time. This is a program that helps our call-takers improve those processes," Fletcher said.

The ability to offer high-quality CPR performance is critical during cardiac arrest situations. A sought-after outcome from the program would be for dispatchers to more effectively relay how to perform CPR and provide other necessary instruction to someone who calls during a cardiac arrest emergency.

"I'll just tell you anecdotally, people are usually in denial for CPR calls. They're scared, which makes sense. They're stressed, which makes sense. And they often don't want to believe what's standing, or sitting, or laying right in front of them," Fletcher said. "They're scared. Their loved one has collapsed. They don't want to believe they're in the process of dying. And so, it's the role of the call-taker to politely, correctly, assertively, get them engaged in the life-saving process."

The RQI-T program was co-developed by the American Heart Association, Laerdal Medical, and the Resuscitation Academy Foundation and RQI Partners.

The training for dispatchers is done in 45-minute simulation sessions every 90 days. At its conclusion, dispatchers should be able to rapidly identify cardiac arrest scenarios and provide instruction about life-saving interventions.

Fletcher explained that the dispatchers will learn how to effectively question callers, clarify their answers, and reassure them how to conduct hands-only CPR in those emergencies.

In addition to the telephone CPR simulation sessions, the RQI-T program measures all cardiac arrest calls processed by the district, providing telecommunicators and administrators with regular feedback on where to improve life-saving medical dispatch. The combination of education and quality improvement activities is expected to yield greater opportunities to save more lives, the press release noted.

Fletcher added that while quality assurance programs can sometimes make employees feel like they are constantly being evaluated, many of the Columbia 911 staff members have said they are grateful for the training and feedback because it makes them more confident in their work.

While cardiac arrest calls are not the majority of calls the 911 dispatch center receives, they are highly critical and significant, which is why the district chose to focus on improving their outcomes.

"If I really want to make the most significant impact, what am I going to focus on? What are the most important call types we have?" Fletcher said. "And one of them is cardiac arrests and CPRs. And it's a

call type we can make a difference if we do our jobs really well."

The training program costs $20,000 for two-years, which has been accounted for in the district's general fund training budget.

All 16 of the 911 district's current dispatchers will be enrolled in the training.

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