Last updated: 20.07.17

How to Perform CPR in 4 Simple Steps

Please note that this information does not qualify you as an official first aider, and Virtual College advise calling 999 in the first instance at the scene of an emergency.

This material and any associated assessments do not constitute a qualification or accreditation as an official first aider. All content provided is for general information only.

Virtual College advocate dialling the emergency services before attempting any form of first aid.

How to Perform CPR

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation, better known as CPR, is a potentially life-saving procedure designed to take over function of the heart and lungs in a casualty under cardiac arrest, a situation in which the heart is no longer pumping blood through the body. Through repeated compressions of the chest, along with rescue breaths, the aid giver is able to pump blood and oxygen throughout the body to preserve brain function. The following steps explain how to administer the procedure.

Step 1: How to Check Someone is Breathing

In the first instance, you must establish the casualty’s situation in order to determine if CPR is an appropriate course of action.

  • Check for an initial response by carefully shaking the person’s shoulders, and speaking to them loudly.
  • Look for regular movements of the chest to indicate that the lungs are inflating and deflating as expected.
  • Place your head beside their mouth and nose, and listen for breathing.
  • Place your cheek a few centimetres away from the mouth to see if you can feel breaths being inhaled and exhaled.
  • If you are not certain that the casualty is breathing normally, then you should move onto step 2 immediately.

The primary survey is a recognised method of assessing an incident involving a casualty, and can help first responders to understand the relevant risks and key processes. Click hereto find out more about the course Virtual College can deliver on this subject.

Step 2: Open the Airway

Obstructions can sometimes be the cause of irregular or lack of breathing. As a result, it’s important to open the airway to be certain the patient is in cardiac arrest, and to facilitate the effectiveness of CPR.

  • Place one of your hands on the casualty’s forehead, and gently push to tilt their head back.
  • With your other hand, take two fingers, and carefully lift the chin; this helps to create an uninterrupted airway.
  • Check the person’s breathing again as described in step 1.

If the casualty is still not breathing normally, then move immediately to the next step. If they are, then place them into the recovery position before seeking professional help.

Important: Do not spend more than a few seconds checking a person’s breathing or attempting to open their airway before calling 999.

Step 2: Call 999

If you have established that the casualty is not breathing normally, or is not breathing at all, then you or someone else nearby, must call 999 before initiating CPR. Operators are available to give you further advice on CPR steps, and other lifesaving aid. Depending on the situation, you may also request a defibrillator.

CPR Steps

Step 3: Chest Compressions

Chest compressions can be attempted by anyone, and when used on their own, are known as hands-only CPR. They are always the first step to take when administering CPR.

  • Kneel down beside the casualty’s chest.
  • Place the heel of one of your hands on the centre of the chest. The most effective position is towards the end of the breastbone.
  • Place the heel of your other hand on top, and then interlock your fingers, if possible keeping your fingers from pushing into the ribs.
  • Many people find that the procedure is easier with their dominant hand on top.
  • Move your shoulders above your hands, so that you are positioned to push directly downwards.
  • Keeping your arms straight, push the chest down firmly by 5-6cm or 2-2.5 inches, and then release, allowing the chest to rise back.
  • Continue compressions at a rate of 100 per minute, or nearly 2 per second. Many people find it helpful to time this to the beat of “Nelly the Elephant”.

Step 4: Rescue Breaths

If you are not confident giving rescue breaths, then you should continue to give chest compressions until professional medical help arrives. If you are familiar with the procedure or have received CPR training, then rescue breaths should be given twice after each set of 30 chest compressions.

  • Ensure again that the casualty’s airway is open and free from obstruction, and tilt their head back as described in step 2.
  • Use one hand to firmly pinch the end of the nose shut.
  • Take a breath, seal your lips around theirs, and breath out. Watch for the chest rising.
  • Remove your lips, and wait for the chest to fall back into position.
  • Repeat the above two steps twice before continuing with 30 chest compressions, and continue the pattern until professional medical help arrives.

Browse through the Virtual College course offering on Health and Safety by clicking here, to see how we can help you or your employees learn skills that will help them manage workplace incidents and follow health and safety best practice, including how to do CPR.

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