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top takeaways from this conversation

  • Nurses are key contributors on a Code Blue team, but their knowledge and expertise are sometimes overlooked.
  • Experienced nurses add value by managing emergency equipment with ease, staying calm under pressure, and educating/mentoring newer staff.
  • New nurses can increase their confidence during a Code Blue by familiarizing themselves with the equipment beforehand.

Code Blue events bring a new meaning to the concept of “a team effort.” When a code is called, a patient’s life is — quite literally — in the hands of the clinicians who respond. And to make matters more complex, code teams are often composed of clinicians from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines who may not routinely work together — except to collaborate on infrequent, unplanned, and high-stakes emergency events.

That’s the inspiration behind our Resuscitation Perspectives series, where we interview different members of Code Blue teams to better understand their role and impact in resuscitation response. And while our interviewees preferred to remain anonymous for privacy, we know their insights will resonate and inform readers across all Code Blue roles — from nurses and physicians to patients and families.

Resuscitation role spotlight: Nursing

Nurses wear many hats during emergency events. Depending on the hospital and team structure, you might find nurses activating a code or rapid response, performing chest compressions to American Heart Association standards, managing emergency equipment, or documenting the events as they unfold. But if there’s one thing we took away from our recent conversation with a long-time registered nurse and code first responder, it’s this: Regardless of what responsibilities they’re tasked with, nurses’ experience, versatility, and ability to stay calm under pressure make them key members of any Code Blue team.

Read our full conversation below, where we discuss staying calm in an emergency, why it’s a mistake to minimize the role of nursing in emergency response, and a key piece of advice for nurses new to Code Blue.

Current role

What is your current role, and how are you involved with resuscitation/emergency response?


I work as a registered nurse at an in-patient medical facility. I’m a first responder to codes in the hospital, and I teach Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) and Basic Life Support (BLS) to all members of the healthcare community.

How do the unique responsibilities of your role impact your perspective on emergency response?


As a long-time nurse and ACLS/BLS teacher, I’m more knowledgeable in this area than many nurses. That means I’m able to stay calm and guide others, do what needs to be done, and speak up when something isn’t done correctly. Not all nurses have the same level of knowledge and experience with emergency response, and many nurses panic in these situations that they don’t experience a lot.

“The nursing role is often minimized, but nurses are the ones who know the equipment and can defibrillate and grab medications with their eyes closed.”

Impact on emergency response

What are two of the most important changes that you have driven, or been a part of, that improved resuscitation response?


I helped train all of our staff on how to use mechanical CPR (mCPR) within our hospital and supported our rollout of the LUCAS® device. I also serve as faculty at our training center to support other instructors, ensuring that they are teaching and keeping up to date on the latest research and science. In that role, I step in and offer corrections — during mock codes or other trainings in situ — to make sure they are teaching the most up-to-date American Heart Association guidelines and incorporating that into care.

Do you see your role as having an impact on improving patients’ survival?


Yes, I impact survival in two ways. In my role teaching, I impart knowledge to many different staff so that they learn the appropriate guidelines and responses. Secondly, I have a lot of experience responding to codes when there is an abundance of new nurses lacking that knowledge and experience. I like to think that both of these attributes have an impact on patient survival.

Reflecting on the past — and looking to the future — of resuscitation response

What is some advice you would give your younger self that you didn’t know then, but know now?


Don’t be afraid of the equipment. Get really familiar with it so you are confident in your skills and able to perform. You’ll believe in yourself more when the time comes to use those skills.

How do you see resuscitation response changing in the future?


I hope that the guidelines become more streamlined, and everyone is more up to date. I’d also like to see better recognition and utilization of the skills nurses bring to the table during Code Blues. For example, MDs will often have nurses leave the room because mCPR is in use. We’ll have rooms filled with too many people — interns and multiple MDs — but it’s the nurses who know how to use defibrillators and push the medications. The MDs have different skill sets and don’t often receive the same training or have the same understanding of our emergency equipment. The nursing role is often minimized, but nurses are the ones who know the equipment and can defibrillate and grab medications with their eyes closed.


Keep reading

Learn more about the stress nurses face in a high-stakes emergency event — and how hospitals can help support them.