Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR): Definition & Procedure

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  • 0:01 CPR
  • 1:25 Assess
  • 2:48 Chest Compressions
  • 5:11 Rescue Breathing
  • 6:40 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Rebecca Gillaspy

Dr. Gillaspy has taught health science at University of Phoenix and Ashford University and has a degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic.

Are you prepared for an emergency situation? Cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR, is a potentially life-saving procedure that you can perform to help a person whose breathing and heartbeat have stopped. In this lesson, learn the procedures for giving CPR.


While on a walk through the park you come across an unconscious person lying on a park bench. On a different day, a coworker complaining of chest pains suddenly falls to the ground. What would you do in these situations?

While no one knows exactly how they will act in an emergency situation, we can all agree that it's best to be prepared. One way to feel prepared for an emergency is to learn CPR, or cardiopulmonary resuscitation, which is an emergency procedure that is performed to maintain life in a person whose breathing and heartbeat have stopped. This term is straightforward if you keep in mind that the prefix cardio- refers to heart, the suffix -pulmonary refers to breathing, and the word 'resuscitate' means to revive. So with CPR, you're trying to revive someone by supporting their breathing and heartbeat.

CPR certification courses are offered through a number of organizations, but the classes offered by the American Heart Association and the American Red Cross are the leading providers. While there are some differences in the way these organizations present their courses, the basic guidelines for administering CPR are similar. In this lesson, you'll learn the generally accepted techniques used for a victim experiencing a heart or breathing emergency.


When you see someone in need, it's human nature to want to jump in and do something. However, in an emergency situation, rushing to help before you properly assess the situation can put you in danger.

Therefore, it's important to remain calm and take notice of any potential hazards in the surrounding environment. For example, if you come across an unconscious person who is partially immersed in water, you want to be aware of any live power lines or other hazards that could cause you harm.

If you determine that it's safe to approach the victim, you want to quickly determine if the person needs assistance. This can be done by shaking the person's shoulders and asking, 'Are you okay?' If the person doesn't respond and is not breathing, it's time to call for help.

If you're alone, you will want to call 911 or the emergency number in your area. If there's someone with you, you want to direct that person to make the call, and tell them to look for an AED, or automated external defibrillator. This is a portable device that can detect problems in heart rhythm and apply a brief electroshock to try to correct an abnormal rhythm. AEDs are often found in public areas and can be used by a person with no formal medical training, which makes them valuable life-saving tools.

Chest Compressions

As soon as possible, the rescuer should begin chest compressions. Chest compressions are performed to keep blood flowing to the brain and body. To discuss how to give chest compression, let's take a look at what you can do to help your coworker who collapsed after complaining of chest pains.

After a quick assessment and a call to 911, you'll want to make sure the victim is on a solid surface, like the floor, so you can start 30 chest compressions. Your first step is to place the heel of one hand in the center of victim's chest. You can then place your other hand on top of the first and interlock your fingers. With your hands in place and your arms straight, you want to lean over the victim so your shoulders are over his chest. This puts you in a good position to provide hard and fast compressions at a rate of at least 100 compressions per minute.

Are you wondering what that rate sound like? Well, a little trick to use is to compress to the beat of the classic disco song, 'Stayin' Alive.' You know, it's the one that goes, 'ah, ah, ah, ah, stayin' alive, stayin' alive.' Humming along to this song will give you the right pace for victims of all ages, including adults, defined as individuals at puberty or older; children, defined as individual from one year of age up to puberty; and infants, defined as individuals under the age of one.

However, the depth of the compressions will vary between these age groups. For your adult coworker, you want to compress his chest at least 2 inches. Children require a little less force, so their chests should be compressed about 2 inches. For the delicate body of an infant, you should only compress the chest about 1-1/2 inches, and instead of using the heel of your hand on the chest, only use two fingers.

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