Background: Mexico has had the Advanced Trauma Life Support (ATLS) program since 1986. We assessed the attrition of ATLS skills among ATLS providers and instructors in this country.
Study design: Three groups (S, 16 students [new medical graduates enrolled for an ATLS course]; P, 33 providers; and I, 26 instructors [who had completed courses previously]) were evaluated. Group S read the manual before pretesting. Groups P and I were subdivided based on the length of time since the course had been completed: P1, less than 2 years (n = 22); P2, more than 2 years (n = 11); I1, less than 2 years (n = 16); and I2, more than 2 years (n = 10). Multiple-choice and psychomotor testing using ATLS scoring criteria were used. Affect was assessed post-ATLS for motivational factors, interactivity, and attitude toward trauma care.
Results: Multiple-choice test scores (means +/- SD) out of a maximum of 40 were as follows: S, 24.3 +/- 2.6; P1, 24.0 +/- 5.7; P2, 21.3 +/- 8.0; I1, 23.2 +/- 8.2; and I2, 24.0 +/- 7.2. Group S all passed the post-ATLS multiple-choice test (with correct answer percentages of 60.3% +/- 6.6% pre-ATLS versus 88.8% +/- 5.6% post-ATLS). An ATLS passing score of 80% correct answers was achieved in 2 of 33 for group P and 8 of 26 for group I (p < 0.05), with no statistically significant differences between groups P1 and P2 or between groups I1 and I2. For the psychomotor skills testing component, 5 of 16 in the S group passed, 15 of 22 in P1 passed, 9 of 11 in P2 passed, 14 of 16 in I1 passed, and 6 of 10 in I2 passed. The pass rate was significantly lower in the S pre-ATLS group than in the P and I groups (p < 0.05, Fisher's exact test). More than 60% preferred interactive components and enrolled for professional improvement, and more than 90% reported improved post-ATLS attitude to trauma care.
Conclusions: Reading the manual alone yields similar cognitive but inferior psychomotor performance compared with subjects who completed the course previously. The majority of previous providers and instructors did not obtain a passing score (80%) in the multiple-choice test, but all the new providers passed the post-ATLS multiple-choice test, suggesting major attrition of cognitive skills but maintenance of psychomotor skills. Instructors had superior cognitive performance versus providers with worsening performance over time, but clinical skills performance was maintained at an equally high level by all groups. A very positive attitude toward ATLS prevailed among all participants.