On March 19, 2020, an older woman called 911. Her husband was unresponsive and needed help — fast. Dispatcher Crystal Mayhew was fairly new to her job at the Charles County Department of Emergency Services call center in La Plata, Maryland, but she was prepared to help this woman save a life, thanks in part to her training in delivering telephone CPR instruction through the RQI-Telecommunicator program.
Based on guidance from the American Heart Association (AHA), RQI Telecommunicator is a low-dose, high-frequency, blended-learning quality improvement program designed to strengthen competency and performance in the delivery of telephone CPR. It offers telecommunicators a blueprint for taking ownership of the critical minutes following a cardiac arrest.
Says Crystal, “The caller said she couldn’t tell if her husband was awake, and she didn’t think he was breathing. So right off the bat, I started the telephone CPR protocol. That’s one thing that RQI has ingrained in me: If they’re not breathing, even if you’re not sure, you need to move right away to CPR. The earlier you start, the better the outcome.”
Every second counts
From the time the call came in until beginning chest compressions, Crystal and the caller were well within the time guidelines for starting CPR — hands to chest within 60 seconds from the address acquisition, or 120 seconds from the start of the call.
Crystal guided the caller on hand placement and the steps and rate she needed to be effective in her efforts. The caller was cooperative and calm until EMS arrived at the scene.
Recalls Crystal, “The caller was alone and getting very tired at the end. She slowed down with her compression rate, and I did my best to motivate her to keep going. RQI recommends that we give positive reinforcement every 30 seconds, reassuring callers that they’re doing a great job, sympathizing with the fact that they’re tired, and reminding them that help is on the way. So that’s exactly what I did.”
How in-depth training fosters deeper knowledge and skill
Prior to joining the Charles County team as a dispatcher, Crystal gained hands-on experience working for fire and EMS in the field. When she transitioned to the call center, she found that the depth of training she received through the RQI-Telecommunicator program benefited her tremendously in her new role
“It’s a learning experience that gets embedded in the back your mind, so you can always do better on the next cardiac arrest call,” says Crystal. “We’ve had so many different scenarios — from unwilling callers to pediatric patients to somebody not breathing after a vehicle accident. RQI has given us such a wide range of scenarios, I know instantly what to expect and how to communicate with callers.”
Says Crystal, “On this particular call, I was able to help the patient’s wife understand that what she was doing was the best thing her husband needed. I was able to help her keep going.”
For first first responders like Crystal, the RQI-Telecommunicator program’s critical cognitive learning, realism and support brings value to all dispatchers and centers.
“The RQI-Telecommunicator program has helped me a lot. It’s an essential training for dispatchers because it creates a higher quality of care for patients, and that’s what saves more lives.”
Crystal received the Life Safety Award from the Charles County Government Department of Emergency Services for her incredible efforts. CLICK HERE to view the award recognition video.