Despite the development and widespread implementation of Basic Life Support and Advanced Cardiac Life Support, the percentage of patients who survive in-hospital cardiac arrest has remained stable at approximately 15%. Although survival rates may approach 90% in coronary care units, survival rates plummet outside of these units. The lower survival rates for cardiac arrest that occur outside of the coronary care unit may relate to the time elapsed between the onset of ventricular fibrillation and first defibrillation. The advent of automated external defibrillators has made it possible to decrease the time elapsed before first defibrillation in non-critical care areas of the hospital. First responders need only recognize that the patient is unresponsive, apneic, and pulseless before attaching and activating the automated external defibrillator. Our research shows that, as part of Basic Life Support training, non-critical care nurses can learn to use the device and can retain the knowledge and skill over time. Establishing an in-hospital automated external defibrillator program requires commitment from administration, physicians, and nursing personnel. Critical care practitioners should be aware of this technology and the literature that supports its safety and effectiveness when used by non-critical care first responders. Critical care nurses are in a unique position to effect changes that will decrease the time between the onset of cardiac arrest and first defibrillation.

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