Cursor goes course-hopping | CPR and AED

There’s plenty to learn at TU/e outside of the normal lectures. This time, Cursor completed the Resuscitation and AED Training. These courses, which last one morning or afternoon, are available to all TU/e employees. After the required theory is discussed, participants get to practice on a mannikin. And this – the practicing (preferably at least once a year) – is particularly essential: it increases the chances of actually springing to action when someone around you goes into cardiac arrest.

photo Mihajlo Maricic / iStock

In a previous working life, I was a member of the internal Emergency Response Team (bhv’er). I’m not anymore, but I do find it important to refresh my knowledge on cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) once a year. “If they receive CPR, victims have a 24 percent chance of surviving and maintaining a good quality of life,” course teacher Toos van Doorn tells us.

That percentage may not seem too high, until one realizes that CPR is performed an average of 300 times a week in the Netherlands. So, over the course of an entire year, it concerns thousands of saved lives. More than enough reason to bike to the Fenix building on a Tuesday morning.

In my bag there’s a little pillow I hastily grabbed from the sofa before leaving. Over the weekend, I chafed both my knees when I tripped. And here’s the thing about CPR and AED courses: you spend most of them on your knees… Anyway, first things first: theory.

Are you OK?

What were the basics again? When you come across someone who appears to be unconscious, first check the space around you: is it safe? Or is there, for example, a robbery or gas leak going on? If you can safely get to the victim, address them while lightly shaking them by the shoulders. At the same time, ask them if they’re OK, using a loud voice so you’re sure you’re getting through to them.

If the victim isn’t responding, first call the emergency services. If you’re not alone, ask someone else to do so. “On campus you always call 2222 and 112.” Why again? “This allows the internal emergency center to already alert ERT team members and wait for the ambulance at the booms on Kennedylaan, so it can be guided to the right place as quickly as possible,” Van Doorn says. We immediately take her advice of saving the internal emergency number, +31 (0)40 247 2222, to our phones.

Also ask someone to go get an AED right away. These can be found in every TU/e building. It’s good to check which one’s closest to where you work. They’re often near the reception desk, but inside the Auditorium there’s one at the coffee machines next to Subway.


While the ambulance is being called or – ideally – on its way already, you check the victim’s respiration. This takes a tiny bit of time: “You breathe ten to fifteen times a minute, so someone’s belly should go up and down two or three times within ten seconds.” 

If they’re not breathing, you perform CPR. The teacher asks us what the actual goal is of doing so using chest compression and rescue breathing. The right answer comes up pretty fast: it’s to keep blood circulation going so the brain continues to receive oxygen and doesn’t die.

In other words, don’t expect to be able to ‘wake someone up’ by performing CPR; the goal is to gain time for the victim until the medical professionals arrive.

Bee Gees

The ratio between chest compression and emergency breathing is thirty to two. I won’t go into great detail here, but certified teacher Van Doorn will be happy to explain the entire process to you in a course. If you’re not willing or able to perform mouth-to-mouth resuscitation – which was a thing during the pandemic of course – then just apply chest compression. This can save someone’s life even without emergency breathing.

Don't be afraid to make mistakes, anything you do is a bonus

Toos van Doorn
Course teacher

The course teacher reminds us that the age-old rule-of-thumb of applying chest compression to the rhythm of the beat of the aptly named Bee Gee song  hit Stayin’ Alive is now outdated. “New research has shown a faster pace is better: about 100 to 120 times per minute.”

Sinus node

Then it’s time to get out the automatic external defibrillator (AED for short). Upon opening up one of these devices, in most cases it starts talking to you automatically. “The ones on campus first run a quick self-check, so don’t worry if it takes up to ten seconds before you hear anything.” The AEDs at TU/e are all defaulted to English.

Even though the AED explains its own operation, I like being instructed on its use and getting some practice. In fact, do we actually know what a defibrillator does exactly? That is to say, it obviously gives electric shocks but is that always useful in cardiac arrest? Van Doorn explains.

“In the heart there’s a bundle of nerves called the sinus node. You could describe this node as the conductor of the heart.” If it gets too little oxygen because the veins have clogged up, instead of contracting evenly the muscle fibers in the heart start doing so very unevenly, which makes the heart transition from pumping to trembling, aka fibrillating. In cases like that, an AED can ‘reset’ the heart.

Electric fence

You do have to be sure fibrillation is going on – which isn’t the case in ‘normal’ cardiac arrest – but the AED checks this itself. All you have to do is use the instructions to stick two adhesive pads connected to electrodes on the chest of the victim. The device will then check if the heart is fibrillating every two minutes. If it is, the AED will deliver a shock through the pads.

In the meantime, you continue performing CPR. The AED gives you a clear warning when you need to release the victim, so you don’t get shocked yourself. The shock itself is not so bad, Van Doorn reassures us: “It feels a bit like touching an electric fence.” However: “The victim did just miss a chance of having their heart defibrillated, and the next chance is still two minutes away.”


Then it’s time to get out my pillow. In pairs we prepare to perform CPR on the mannikins that have been laid out on the floor. While one of us checks its pulse and gets the process underway, the other opens up the AED.

At the end of the course, Van Doorn says we should take one thing to heart (metaphorically in this case): do not be afraid to make mistakes, should we have to perform CPR in real life. After all, people often ‘freeze’ in crisis situations, or hope others around them will act. In other words: “Anything you do is a bonus.”

After applying chest compression to the mannikin for five minutes, my shoulders pop. But it does feel good to have practiced all the steps again. And even though I think it would be very intense to actually have to perform CPR, I’m happy that I’m prepared – as much as one can be – in any case.

In the ‘Cursor goes course-hopping’ feature, our editors will take part in the various training sessions, courses and workshops that TU/e offers throughout the year with the aim of allowing students and staff members to increase their knowledge and skills in a variety of fields. If you happen to offer a course, training session or workshop yourself that might be of interest to this feature, or if you know of any such event, don’t hesitate to contact Cursor’s editorial board.

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