Background: Training requirements to perform safe prehospital endotracheal intubation (ETI) are not clearly known. This study aimed to determine differences in ETI performance between 'proficient performers' and 'experts' according to the Dreyfus & Dreyfus framework of expertise. As a model for 'proficient performers' EMS physicians with a clinical background in internal medicine were compared to EMS physicians with a background in anaesthesiology as a model for 'experts'.
Methods: Over a one-year period all ETIs performed by the EMS physicians of our institution were prospectively evaluated. 'Proficient performers' and 'experts' were compared regarding incidence of difficult ETI, ability to predict difficult ETI, and decision for ETI.
Results: Mean years of professional experience were similar between the physician groups, but the median ETI experience differed significantly with 18/year for 'proficients' and 304/year for 'experts' (p<0.001). 'Proficient performers' intubated 130 of their 2170 treated patients (6.0%), while 'experts' did so in 146 of 1809 cases (8.1%, p=0.01 for difference). The incidence of difficult ETI was 17.7% for 'proficient performers', and 8.9% for 'experts' (p<0.05). In 4 cases ETI was impossible, all managed by 'proficient performers', but all patients could be ventilated sufficiently. Unexpected difficult ETI occurred in 6.1% for 'proficient performers', and 2.0% for 'experts' (p=0.08).
Conclusions: In a prehospital setting 'expert' status was associated with a significantly lower incidence of 'difficult ETI' and a higher proportion of ETI decisions. In addition, ability to predict difficult ETI was higher, although non-significant. There was no difference in the incidence of impossible ventilation.
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