We sought to identify barriers and facilitators to ambulance communications officers' (ACOs') recognition of abnormal breathing and administration of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) instructions.
We conducted semistructured qualitative interviews based on the constructs of the Theory of Planned Behavior to elicit salient attitudes, social influences, and behavioral controls potentially influencing ACOs' intent to recognize abnormal breathing as a symptom of cardiac arrest and administer CPR instructions over the phone. We conducted interviews until achieving data saturation. We recorded interviews and transcribed them verbatim. Two independent reviewers performed inductive analyses to identify emerging themes.
We interviewed 24 ACOs from four Canadian provinces (67% female, median 9.5 years of experience, 33% with paramedic training). We identified eight behavioral, 14 subjective normative, and 22 control beliefs. Important attitudes were as follows: 1) CPR instructions may help the patient and are likely to be beneficial for the caller; 2) abnormal breathing is an early sign of cardiac arrest; and 3) dispatch-assisted CPR instructions can improve survival. The leading social influence was management/quality assurance staff. Behavioral control was the construct most associated with ACOs' ability to recognize abnormal breathing, including 1) adherence to mandatory scripted protocol, 2) poor caller description of breathing pattern, and 3) ACO training on abnormal breathing.
This qualitative study found that control beliefs are most influential on ACOs' intention to recognize abnormal breathing and provide CPR instructions over the phone. Training and policy changes should target these beliefs to increase the frequency of ACO-administered CPR instructions to callers reporting a patient in cardiac arrest.