By showing a scenario the middle-schoolers could encounter in public, the medical students demonstrate how to perform CPR and use AEDs, automated external defibrillators, for people who are having heart attacks.
The six-minute video is free and can be downloaded online by teachers, parents and youth leaders.
This fall, the medical students will volunteer to go to Chicago-area schools to answer middle-school students' questions after they watch the video.
The video was completed in time for the signing this summer of Illinois House Bill 5114, which redefined "safety education" in grades six through eight to include training videos about CPR and AEDs.
"Our goal is to increase 'bystander CPR' for people who have sudden cardiac arrests," said Dr. Amer Aldeen, assistant professor of emergency medicine at Northwestern and co-founder of CCARES, Chicago Cardiac Arrest Resuscitation Education Service, which oversees the video project.
About 382,000 people in the U.S. have sudden cardiac arrests outside of hospitals each year, according to the American Heart Association.
Children as young as 12 can learn CPR and can retain the training, Aldeen said. "If they can't do it themselves physically, they can at least direct an adult to do it," he said.
"By teaching students who are this age, we reach a lot of kids who are at athletic events, especially," Aldeen said. "As an ER doctor, I appreciate that someone can start chest compressions there, before the paramedics arrive. CPR within those first few minutes can improve survival chances by two to three times."
Aldeen said the CCARES volunteers encourage the students to teach their parents CPR. The whole family should review the video every six months to stay fresh, he added.
Too often, Aldeen said, onlookers are afraid to help because they don't know what to do and because they are afraid to do mouth-to-mouth resuscitation with a stranger. "But the video teaches the 'hands-only' method, so there's no mouth-to-mouth," he said.
CCARES also made a CPR video for adults. Next, it plans to produce CPR videos in Spanish and Polish. Expenses will be paid by a grant that CCARES received from the Minneapolis-based Medtronic Foundation.
CCARES is also training Chicago police officers in CPR. "So far, we've reached about one-third of them," Aldeen said.
"All it takes is one 'save,'" he said. "Then you appreciate how important CPR is."
To view the video for middle-school students, go to vimeo.com/41391261. The password is "emergency."