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Review of effective advanced cardiac life support training using experiential learning


  • Tracy Kidd RN, PGDip Critical Care Nursing,

  • Sharon Kendall RN, Graduate Dip Health Science (Education), MHSc

Tracy Kidd
Senior Research Assistant
School of Nursing and Midwifery
La Trobe University
PO Box 199
Vic. 3552
Telephone: +61(3) 5444 7416


Aims and objectives.  This paper examines issues of contention regarding current practices and suggests the application of the experiential theory of learning (incorporating reflective practice) to advanced cardiac life support (ACLS) training.

Background.  The need for formalized training in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and ACLS is well documented. However, the effectiveness of traditional training programmes has not been firmly established. The question still remains – how to best ensure transfer of learning enabling learners to apply classroom knowledge successfully in the clinical setting. It is argued that educators can no longer rely on traditional teaching methods and more effective learner-centred education techniques are required.

Method.  A review of available literature regarding ACLS training has been conducted for this discussion. Data sources and selection: MEDLINE, CINAHL, OVID, Expanded Academic and Proquest were searched using textwords. English-language articles related to CPR and ACLS practices and also experiential learning were reviewed. Additional references were also reviewed from the bibliographies and from citation searches on key articles. Articles related to CPR/ACLS and experiential learning practices published within the last 10 years were reviewed.

Results.  There is evidence that past ACLS training programmes have proven inconsistent and inadequate, with numerous studies reporting trainees have poor retention; and, therefore, ineffective ACLS skills as a result.

Conclusions.  The reviewed literature demonstrates that the need for effective ACLS training is clear. Increasing numbers of critically ill patients in hospitals means that it has never been more important to ensure the competence of healthcare professionals. Training must give learners a chance to pull together all aspects of ACLS and the use of experiential learning has the potential to achieve this aim.

Relevance to clinical practice.  It is argued that providing training designed and implemented using experimental learning enhances learning through critical thinking and reflection, and subsequently should improve ACLS outcomes.