When the Heart Stops: Life-giving Updates on Cardiac Arrest

Renee Twibell, PhD, RN, CNE; Austin May, BS, RN; Parker May, BS, RN


Am Nurs Today. 2018;13(2) 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


"NO PULSE! Someone help!"

When these words ring out, healthcare professionals respond immediately. Time is life when the heart stops beating, and interventions must occur within minutes. Across the United States, nurses working in hospitals encounter over 550 patients in sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) each day. The American Heart Association's (AHA's) "Get with the guidelines—Resuscitation" data from 2016 show that:

  • More than 559,000 people in the United States experience SCA each year inside and outside of hospitals.

  • An estimated 325,000 don't survive.

  • In-hospital SCA incidence is more than 200,000 adults and 6,000 children each year.

  • Each day, 1,000 Americans die from SCA, about one person every 2 minutes.

  • 88% to 95% of SCA victims die before help arrives or before transportation to the hospital.

As first responders and caregivers, nurses can save more lives when their skills and knowledge are up-to-date. Here are some key questions and answers for busy hospital nurses concerned about SCA in hospitalized adults.