How best to teach CPR to schoolchildren: a systematic review

Resuscitation. 2013 Apr;84(4):415-21. doi: 10.1016/j.resuscitation.2012.12.008. Epub 2012 Dec 11.


Background: Training schoolchildren to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation is one possible method of increasing bystander CPR rates. We reviewed available literature to identify what methods of training children have been successful.

Objectives and methods: This review sought to evaluate evidence addressing the following PICO question: (P) In schoolchildren, (I) what types of CPR, AED and first aid training (C) when compared to no training and to each other (O) lead to ability to perform life saving measures? Searches were conducted in Ovid MEDLINE (1946 - August 2012), Ovid EMBASE (1974 - August 2012) and Ebscohost Cinahl (1981 - August 2012). Database specific subject headings in all three databases (MeSH in MEDLINE, Emtree in EMBASE, Cinahl Headings) were selected for the concepts of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and education. The combined results were then limited by age to include all school aged children. The search yielded 2620 articles. From titles, abstract and key words, 208 articles described CPR, AED and/or first aid training in schoolchildren and were eligible for review. These were obtained in full, were unavailable or not published in English. We reviewed articles for publication type and relevance. 48 studies were identified. One additional study was included as an extension of a study retrieved within the search.

Results: The studies found by the search were heterogeneous for study and training methodology. Findings regarding schoolchild age and physical factors, the role of practical training, use of self-instruction kits, use of computer based learning, reduced training time, trainer type, AED training are presented.

Conclusions: Evidence shows that cardiopulmonary training, delivered in various ways, is successful in a wide age range of children. While older children perform more successfully on testing, younger children are able to perform basic tasks well, including use of AEDs. Chest compression depth correlates with physical factors such as increasing weight, BMI and height. Instruction must include hands on practice to enable children to perform physical tasks. Repeated training improves performance and retention but the format and frequency of repeated training is yet to be fully determined. Types of training that may reduce the main obstacles to implementation of such training in schools include use of self-instruction kits, computer based learning and use of teacher and peer tutor trainers, but again, need further exploration. As starting points we recommend legislative and funded mandates to provide such training to schoolchildren, and production and use of a framework which will delineate longitudinal delivery of training over the school career. Further research should have some uniformity in terms of assessment methodology, look at longer outcomes, and ideally will evaluate areas that are currently poorly defined.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation / education*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Computer-Assisted Instruction
  • Defibrillators
  • Humans
  • Programmed Instructions as Topic
  • Retention, Psychology
  • Schools