Can Gender Bias During CPR Pose a Risk to Women?

| Roxanne Blanford

Both sexes may be equally at risk for cardiac arrest. But gender bias in CPR could actually interfere with successful cardiac pulmonary resuscitation in women.

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is known as  'the kiss of life,' yet this life-saving technique involves much more than mouth-to-mouth rescue breathing.

For instance, when someone experiences a sudden cardiac arrest (SCA), not only might the individual stop breathing, but the heart may stop beating as well. In this case, the first course of action for saving a life would be to remove all clothing and perform chest compressions. This will immediately force oxygen-carrying blood into the brain and to other vital organs.

If it is warranted, a rescuer might additionally attempt resuscitation by using an automated external defibrillator (AED) to shock the heart into beating. Proper placement of the AED's electrodes requires the chest area to be completely free of obstacles. This includes the removal of medication patches and upper body undergarments.

However, empirical evidence shows that there is a degree of reluctance in persons to remove all clothing from a female patient during resuscitation efforts. This might even occur during simulation-based training events.

Whether the underlying reason is borne out of respect for the female, reactions to sensibilities relating to modesty and embarrassment, or due to some other socio-cultural inhibition regarding the female body, the end result is the same: Improperly administered CPR.

A Female Simulator for Realistic CPR Training

Does the sex of a simulated patient affect CPR? is a clinical paper based on a study conducted in the Healthcare Human Factors and Simulation Laboratory (HHFSL) at the W21C Research and Innovation Centre at the University of Calgary and certified by the University of Calgary's Biomedical Ethics Committee. The general purpose was to determine if CPR would be performed differently on a simulated male patient versus a female, and to explore the ramifications for women's health in light of potential gender bias.

The study found:

  • rescuers were likely to remove more clothing from the male simulator
  • in an effort to avoid contact with the breast area, hand placement on the female was apt to be incorrect
  • there is a need for standardized CPR training, regardless of patient sex

While there is room for more study, researchers were in agreement about the need to elevate training, suggesting that

... the absence of realistic female patient simulators may bias training for, and research into, patient care ... (and) that using only male simulators will not allow trainees to experience social differences associated with the care of a female patient..."

CAE Athena by CAE Healthcare not only offers advanced airway management, comprehensive cardiovascular education and integrated CPR performance metrics that are compliant with American Heart Association 2015 guidelines, but this superior, high fidelity female patient simulator has exceptional aesthetics for an immersive learning experience that is positively revolutionary.

From advanced airway management and ventilation training to AHA-compliant integrated CPR analysis, Athena is the ideal female simulator for intensive respiratory and difficult airway management training.

Healthcare simulation training which incorporates the promotion of medical insight about how to better address sex and gender-specific disparities in the administration of urgent care can be a significant benefit in the reduction of adverse results from potential sexually-biased behaviors in CPR management.

Prepare to take simulation training in women's healthcare to an entirely new level, with CAE Athena.

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