Perceptions of basic, advanced, and pediatric life support training in a United States medical school

J Emerg Med. 2014 May;46(5):695-700. doi: 10.1016/j.jemermed.2013.08.055. Epub 2013 Oct 22.


Background: Basic Life Support (BLS), Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS), and Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) are integral parts of emergency resuscitative care. Although this training is usually reserved for residents, introducing the training in the medical student curriculum may enhance acquisition and retention of these skills.

Objectives: We developed a survey to characterize the perceptions and needs of graduating medical students regarding BLS, ACLS, and PALS training.

Methods: This was a study of graduating 4th-year medical students at a U.S. medical school. The students were surveyed prior to participating in an ACLS course in March of their final year.

Results: Of 152 students, 109 (71.7%) completed the survey; 48.6% of students entered medical school without any prior training and 47.7% started clinics without training; 83.4% of students reported witnessing an average of 3.0 in-hospital cardiac arrests during training (range of 0-20). Overall, students rated their preparedness 2.0 (SD 1.0) for adult resuscitations and 1.7 (SD 0.9) for pediatric resuscitations on a 1-5 Likert scale, with 1 being unprepared. A total of 36.8% of students avoided participating in resuscitations due to lack of training; 98.2%, 91.7%, and 64.2% of students believe that BLS, ACLS, and PALS, respectively, should be included in the medical student curriculum.

Conclusions: As per previous studies that have examined this topic, students feel unprepared to respond to cardiac arrests and resuscitations. They feel that training is needed in their curriculum and would possibly enhance perceived comfort levels and willingness to participate in resuscitations.

Keywords: advanced cardiac life support; basic life support; medical students; pediatric advanced life support.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate*
  • Emergency Medicine / education*
  • Heart Arrest / therapy
  • Humans
  • Life Support Care*
  • United States