Advanced cardiac life support refresher course using standardized objective-based Mega Code testing

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The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that those whose daily work requires knowledge and skills in advanced cardiac life support (ACLS) not only be trained in ACLS, but also be given a refresher training at least every 2 yr. However, AMA offers no recommended course for retraining; no systematic studies of retraining have been conducted on which to base these recommendations. In this paper we review and present our recommendation for a standardized approach to refresher training. Using the goals and objectives of the ACLS training program as evaluation criteria, we tested with the Mega Code a sample population who had previously been trained in ACLS. The results revealed deficiencies in ACLS knowledge and skills in the areas of assessment, defibrillation, drug therapy, and determining the cause of an abnormal blood gas value. We combined this information with our knowledge of other deficiencies identified during actual resuscitation attempts and other basic life-support and ACLS teaching experiences. We then designed a refresher course which was consistent with the overall goals and objectives of the ACLS training program, but which placed emphasis on the deficiencies identified in the pretesting. We taught our newly designed refresher course in three sessions, which included basic life support, endotracheal intubation, arrhythmia recognition and therapeutic modalities, defibrillation, and Mega Code practice. In a fourth session, using Mega Code testing, we evaluated knowledge and skill learning immediately after training. We similarly tested retention 2 to 4 months later. Performance immediately after refresher training showed improvement in all areas where performance had been weak. Two to four months later, performance in assessment, defibrillation, and drug therapy was maintained to some degree. However, the ability to determine the cause of an abnormal blood gas value remained weak, suggesting a need to examine how those skills are taught.

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