Advanced cardiac life support (ACLS) is a problem-based course that employs simulation techniques to teach the standard management techniques of cardiovascular emergencies. Its structure is periodically revised according to new versions of the American Heart Association guidelines. Since it was introduced in Brazil in 1996, the ACLS has been through two conceptual and structural changes. Detailed documented reports on the effect of these changes on student performance are limited. The objective of the present study was to evaluate the effect of conceptual and structural changes of the course on student ACLS performance at a Brazilian training center. This was a retrospective study of 3266 students divided into two groups according to the teaching model: Model 1 (N = 1181; 1999-2003) and Model 2 (N = 2085; 2003-2007). Model 2 increased practical skill activities to 75% of the total versus 60% in Model 1. Furthermore, the teaching material provided to the students before the course was more objective than that used for Model 1. Scores greater than 85% in the theoretical evaluation and approval in the evaluation of practice by the instructor were considered to be a positive outcome. Multiple logistic regression was used to adjust for potential confounders (specialty, residency, study time, opportunity to enhance practical skills during the course and location where the course was given). Compared to Model 1, Model 2 presented odds ratios (OR) indicating better performance in the theoretical (OR = 1.34; 95%CI = 1.10-1.64), practical (OR = 1.19; 95%CI = 0.90-1.57), and combined (OR = 1.38; 95%CI = 1.13-1.68) outcomes. Increasing the time devoted to practical skills did not improve the performance of ACLS students.
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