For professional responders, meeting survivors can be deeply rewarding.
Acknowledging events can provide closure, an opportunity for education, and reinforcement of the importance of CPR.
First responder agencies should provide a list of resources and information for known support groups, formal and informal, to facilitate the healing process for survivors and their families
Are reunions equally rewarding for first responders?
Surviving an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest can be a life-changing experience, with significant emotional impacts on survivors, their families, lay rescuers, and first responders. Meeting emergency service personnel, dispatchers, call takers, and bystanders who acted to save lives can provide survivors with a sense of closure and appreciation for the individuals who played a critical role in their survival.
For professional responders, meeting survivors can be a deeply rewarding experience as well. It can give you a sense of satisfaction and validation that your efforts made a difference and helped to save a life in a profession where external validation is limited due to privacy laws. It can also be an opportunity for you to learn about the survivor’s experience in quality improvement processes.
Additionally, emergency personnel, dispatch staff, and bystanders can help survivors cope with the emotional and psychological trauma of cardiac arrest. Survivors may have many questions about what happened during their cardiac arrest, and meeting the individuals who were involved in their rescue can provide them with such answers and help them come to terms with their experience.
It is important for first responders to acknowledge the actions that support the chain of survival, regardless of the patient outcome. This is particularly important for lay rescuers who may have acted appropriately but were unable to save the patient. Failing to recognize your efforts can cause you to associate negative outcomes with your actions and create cognitive distortions. Acknowledging your actions through an event can provide closure, an opportunity for education, and reinforcement of the importance of prompt and effective CPR. It can also provide an opportunity for lay rescuers to ask questions and gain a better understanding of the resuscitation process.
Furthermore, emergency personnel, dispatch staff, and lay rescuers can be powerful motivators for survivors to make positive changes in their lifestyles and take steps to prevent future cardiac events. Survivor rescuer meetings can contribute to survivor and family members’ increased pro-social behaviors surrounding the cardiac arrest and CPR and AED advocacy. Survivors can see firsthand the impact that prompt and effective CPR, AED, and emergency response can have on their survival and recovery and offer their own lived experiences.
While not everyone may wish to participate in a reunion, it is important to reach out to everyone involved to ensure they are comfortable with the process. Facilitating survivor-responder reunions can also provide an opportunity to meet other survivors and share stories and common experiences, accessing support resources.
First responder agencies should provide a list of resources and information for known support groups, formal and informal, to facilitate the healing process for survivors and their families. Studies have shown that about half of cardiac arrest survivors have some type of adjustment or panic disorder, or even depression. Similarly, it can affect family members and others around them.
Engaging the rescuers following an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest is significant for both the survivors and the individuals who contributed in acting to save a life. Such meetings offer an opportunity for closure, acknowledgment, and validation for the survivors and also provide emotional support to help them manage the psychological trauma associated with the event. Moreover, survivors can gain inspiration from such interactions and be motivated to bring positive changes in their communities by sharing their experiences and advocating for the importance of prompt and effective CPR, AED use, and emergency response.
Thank you to our contributors
Paul Snobelen & Curt Mahoney
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