Inclusion saves lives. A norm-critical investigation of bodies and representation in CPR manikins in collaboration with their leading manufacturer, Laerdal.
When encountering a person who is in cardiac arrest, Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) is an emergency procedure that aims, through chest compressions and sometimes artificial ventilation, to manually preserve blood flow and brain function until further measures are taken by a paramedic or medical professional. CPR is often taught in groups, with a manikin at the centre of the workshop. A manikin commonly used across the world is ‘Little Anne’ by the Norwegian medical training goods manufacturer Laerdal.
Our goal in this project was to embrace as well as critically examine the history of Laerdal, and to craft behaviour-influencing ideas, as well as their physical manifestations, that would lead to greater educational efficiency. By working together with Laerdal, CPR trainers and the community, as well as considering research on CPR efficiency in diverse environments, we gathered insights and identified opportunities to improve the relationship between training and the actual event, and question the effect that the fiction of CPR training has on a real-life emergency scenario.
Through our investigation, including desk research, several engagements and a research lab, it became evident that the physical design of CPR manikins created a devide between the fiction of CPR training and the actual event. Through our engagement with CPR training instructors it was further highlighted that CPR manikins were designed with mainly their mechanical purpose in mind, but that the social aspects of approaching bodies of different genders, colours and sizes and norms and conventions in various cultural and religious environments around this, were not yet sufficiently part of the discussion.
Little Anne’s design, representing a caucasian male torso but displaying the face of L’Inconnue de la Seine, or, The Unknown Woman of the Seine, based on a wax cast taken from a drowned underage female in Paris during the 1880s, was only the beginning of an investigation around built-in biases concerning gender, ethnicity, the bodily and de-/sexualisation. The relevance of this investigation was underpinned by several studies pointing out significantly lower chances of survival for certain groups in the event of an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest, including women and ethnic minorities.
The project proposes to re-design the archetypal “Little Anne” manikin in order to make it more inclusive and diverse in its representation of people and suggests using the face of the manikin to introduce a positive survivor-narrative into CPR training. A diverse training experience and case-specifically chosen educational examples are seen as a key to reducing social barriers and ultimately, as a means to increase overall as well as specific survival rates.
‘Little Anne’ is a project by Jonas Gentle and Lina Wilckens. During research activities, presentations and the CPR Lab, they collaborated with Siena DeBartolo and Caroline Inckle-Sharpe, who focused on the topic of self-image, and together developed a suite of interventions and recommendations that were fed back to the main stakeholder, Laerdal.