Initiative Aims to Provide Statewide Dispatcher-Assisted CPR Instructions

June 19, 2018 10:27 AM | Sally Winkelman (Administrator)

Suzanne Martens, MD
State of Wisconsin EMS Medical Director

The Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin Endowment has awarded funding to the Wisconsin EMS Association, which will help expand a Milwaukee County pilot project for dispatcher-assisted CPR instructions statewide. 

The Milwaukee County Dispatcher Assisted Bystander CPR program was created to increase the overall cardiac arrest survival rate within the Milwaukee County. Through the program, dispatcher assisted bystander CPR pre-arrival instructions are made available to all callers in the County. 

Out-of-hospital cardiac arrest is a significant health problem. In Milwaukee County, only 10% of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest patients survive to hospital discharge. When CPR is started by bystanders, the odds of survival double, however, bystander CPR is attempted on only 19% of cardiac arrest victims in the County. This rate could be improved if every 911 caller received CPR coaching. With the implementation of dispatcher assisted CPR instructions in Seattle, Washington, the rate of bystander CPR doubled and survival rates for the entire County increased. 

2017 Wisconsin ACT 296Dispatcher Assisted CPR, mandates that by May 21, 2021, every Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) will provide dispatcher assisted CPR in one of two methods, either by dispatcher training or call transfer to a trained PSAP. This program will also include monitoring and continuous quality improvement. Act 296: 

  • affords protection from civil liability in performance of dispatcher assisted CPR;  
  • provides $250,000 for fiscal year 2017-18 in funding for emergency dispatcher CPR; 
  • specifies that DHS must include a proposal for funding an emergency dispatcher CPR training in its 2019-21 biennial budget request; 
  • creates a 0.5 full-time equivalent position in DHS to administer the emergency dispatcher CPR training grant program. 

The bill was strongly supported by members of the WI EMS Advisory Board, as well as representatives from the American Heart Association, and its enactment was recognized on the HeartRescue Project website

The Milwaukee County EMS dispatch pre-arrival instructions for CPR are freely available. PSAPs that pursue training will require assistance and medical oversight. EM and EMS physicians will be asked to support these programs and their community. Start asking questions and becoming involved now. Three years is not a lot of time to enact this vital public safety program, and sooner is better.