Context: The impact of clinical experience on learning outcome from a resuscitation course has not been systematically investigated.
Aim: To determine whether half a year of clinical experience before participation in an Advanced Life Support (ALS) course increases the immediate learning outcome and retention of learning.
Materials and methods: This was a prospective single blinded randomised controlled study of the learning outcome from a standard ALS course on a volunteer sample of the entire cohort of newly graduated doctors from Copenhagen University. The outcome measurement was ALS-competence assessed using a validated composite test including assessment of skills and knowledge.
Intervention: The intervention was half a year of clinical work before an ALS course. The intervention group received the course after a half-year of clinical experience. The control group participated in an ALS course immediately following graduation.
Results: Invitation to participate was accepted by 154/240 (64%) graduates and 117/154 (76%) completed the study. There was no difference between the intervention and control groups with regard to the immediate learning outcome. The intervention group had significantly higher retention of learning compared to the control group, intervention group mean 82% (CI 80-83), control group mean 78% (CI 76-80), P=0.002. The magnitude of this difference was medium (effect size=0.57).
Conclusions: Half a year of clinical experience, before participation in an ALS course had a small but statistically significant impact on the retention of learning, but not on the immediate learning outcome.