The Acute Life-threatening Events--Recognition and Treatment (ALERT) course is a one-day multidisciplinary course originally designed to give newly qualified doctors and nurses greater confidence and ability in the recognition and management of adult patients who have impending or established critical illness. It may also be suitable for many other groups of health service workers. ALERT was developed using principles common to many advanced life support courses and incorporates aspects of clinical governance, multidisciplinary education and interprofessional working. It incorporates pre-course reading, informal and interactive seminars, practical demonstrations and role-play during clinically based scenarios. A novel aspect of ALERT is that participants undertake role interchange during scenarios, thereby facilitating mutual understanding. At all times during the course, participants are encouraged to reflect on their actions and to pay particular attention to detail. The course focuses on those problems that lead ward nurses to call doctors for assistance, e.g. 'the blue patient', 'the hypotensive patient'. Communication skills are covered frequently in the course, during seminars and scenarios, but also as a specific session that covers three aspects--breaking bad news, writing patient notes and interpersonal/interprofessional communication.