Evaluation of staff's retention of ACLS and BLS skills

Resuscitation. 2008 Jul;78(1):59-65. doi: 10.1016/j.resuscitation.2008.02.007. Epub 2008 Apr 10.


Objectives/purpose: To test registered nurses' abilities to retain basic or advanced life support psychomotor skills and theoretical knowledge.

Design: A repeated-measures, quasi-experimental design was used.

Methods: Written and performance tests (initial, post-training, and final testing) used scenarios requiring performance of advanced cardiac life support (ACLS) or basic life support (BLS) skills. Final testing was by random assignment to 3, 6, 9, or 12 months.

Sample: A convenience sample (n=133) was used.

Instrumentation: American Heart Association 2000 ACLS and BLS evaluation tools were used in a simulated testing environment.

Findings: Findings show nurses retain theoretical knowledge but performance skills degrade quickly. ACLS skills degrade faster than BLS skills with 63% passing BLS at 3 months and 58% at 12 months. Only 30% of participants passed ACLS skills at 3 months and 14% at 12 months. These findings are similar to the results of other investigators in over a decade of research.

Conclusions: Study results showed a decline in skills retention with nurses unable to perform ACLS and BLS skills to standard for the entire certification period. The need for more frequent refresher training is needed. No formal research at this institution indicates skill degradation adversely affected patient outcomes. Further research on ACLS and BLS course content, design, management, and execution is needed.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Advanced Cardiac Life Support / standards*
  • Clinical Competence*
  • Education, Nursing, Continuing*
  • Educational Measurement
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Life Support Care / standards*
  • Male
  • Prospective Studies