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Do you know how to call a Code Blue?

Toronto, November 15, 2013

By Geoff Koehler

A group practices a mock code blue in the Allan Waters Family Simulation Centre. Clockwise, from bottom left: Roger Chow, Tatiana Postonogova, Katherine Allan, Hilary Every, Pamela McLachlan, Kari White, Niranjan Sathivel, Theresa Aves, Karen Wannamaker.
A group practices a mock code blue in the Allan Waters Family Simulation Centre. Clockwise, from bottom left: Roger Chow, Tatiana Postonogova, Katherine Allan, Hilary Every, Pamela McLachlan, Kari White, Niranjan Sathivel, Theresa Aves, Karen Wannamaker. (Photo by Yuri Markarov)

Everyone across St. Michael’s Hospital – from emergency room nurses to finance staff – has access to some of Canada’s most innovative CPR training.

Unlike other CPR courses, St. Michael’s Basic Life Support program teaches CPR that is specific to the hospital, training staff to deal with cardiac arrests in their real-world environment.

“Working in a hospital, we have a high chance of being involved in a Code Blue,” said Dr. Natalie Wong, the program’s medical director. “A cardiac arrest is the wrong time to ask, ‘What should I do?’”

The program tailors lessons to each area or group. The MRI department requested specific practice scenarios because its emergency situations often differ from the rest of the hospital.

The St. Michael’s CPR course is two hours shorter than that offered by the Heart and Stroke Foundation. Dr. Wong said she hopes to further cut down on in-class time by creating an e-learning module that will roll out soon.

Developed by the same group that produced Dr. Mike Evans’ “23½ hours” video, the module will provide necessary background information for the course.

“Students can do the module at their leisure before the course,” said Dr. Wong. “This means they come with a wealth of knowledge and we can get right to hands-on practice.”

Research recently published in Resuscitation showed that the St. Michael’s course ensures CPR quality and skill retention because it uses audiovisual feedback defibrillators and performance reviews.


St. Michael’s Basic Life Support program now falls under Education. It teaches staff from any discipline how to:

  • call a Code Blue
  • use the equipment available on their floor/office
  • provide CPR while help is on its way
  • pass cardiac arrest patients over to the St. Michael’s cardiac arrest team

In class is only the first chance to assess students’ CPR skills. The Basic Life Support program is establishing mock Code Blues for care areas across St. Michael’s.

“Mock codes are a better, safer way to practice and assess how staff perform CPR in real-time,” said Dr. Wong. “We’re replicating the stress of the moment in the same environment that they provide care.”

“Our program’s focus on research and quality means that results feed back directly into the program,” said Dr. Wong. “Other hospitals have come to us to model their teaching program after St. Michael’s.”

For more information on the program, please contact BLS@smh.ca.

About St. Michael’s Hospital

St. Michael’s Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education to future health care professionals in 27 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, care of the homeless and global health are among the Hospital’s recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Centre, which make up the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, research and education at St. Michael’s Hospital are recognized and make an impact around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.