The program Youth Heart Watch (YHW) created by Dr. Victoria Vetter at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, supports schools in making them heart safe. A Heart Safe school is one that has the best practices in place to provide an effective response to a cardiac emergency on a school campus. The components include having a rescue ready and accessible AED, providing CPR training resources for staff and students, and having a written and practiced CERP that is shared with local EMS and other organizations that share their school campus. The goal of my project was to determine if the median income of a school district zip code affects the likelihood of having a cardiac emergency response plan (CERP) within schools in Bucks and Montgomery County.
To understand how income level impacts the presence of a CERP, I first obtained the median income by zipcode and racial demographics of the schools from the U.S. Census and Pennsylvania Department of Education database. Then, I called the public schools in both counties to speak with administration about the emergency procedures they have in place. If their emergency procedures did not include a CERP, I connected them to the YHW Program Coordinator to support them in making one. Not only did I call schools about CERPs, I taught 140 summer students how they can have a role during a cardiac arrest event.
The data suggests that income may not be the only obstacle for the development of a CERP in a school. No matter the income level, many schools did not have a CERP. From this experience, I learned there is a disconnect between the school district office expectations and the schools regarding the emergency procedures in place. For instance, several school district offices claimed that the school administrators knew what to do in the case of a cardiac emergency, however, it was revealed that school administration relies on the school nurse for AED information and school safety procedures. This presents a potential hazard because the school nurse is not always accessible on campus which emphasizes the need for a plan that is developed and practiced in collaboration with school administration.
I will continue to do research on CERPs within schools in Pennsylvania. When continuing to gather data, I will see if there is a socioeconomic factor to this. Simultaneously, I will reach out to schools to see if they will allow the program to help them create a CERP. This will strengthen their confidence in a cardiac emergency. Through Youth Heart Watch, I met the coordinators for MobileCPR. This program teaches CPR at different locations within Philadelphia. I have volunteered with this group while doing research, so I will continue to volunteer with them. This experience has opened doors into cardiac medicine and I am excited to learn more.