Skill Proficiency is Predicted by Intubation Frequency of Emergency Medicine Attending Physicians

West J Emerg Med. 2019 Jul;20(4):601-609. doi: 10.5811/westjem.2019.6.42946. Epub 2019 Jul 2.


Introduction: Airway management is a fundamental skill of emergency medicine (EM) practice, and suboptimal management leads to poor outcomes. Endotracheal intubation (ETI) is a procedure that is specifically taught in residency, but little is known how best to maintain proficiency in this skill throughout the practitioner's career. The goal of this study was to identify how the frequency of intubation correlated with measured performance.

Methods: We assessed 44 emergency physicians for proficiency at ETI by direct laryngoscopy on a simulator. The electronic health record was then queried to obtain their average number of annual ETIs and the time since their last ETI, supervised and individually performed, over a two-year period. We evaluated the strength of correlation between these factors and assessment scores, and then conducted a receiver operator characteristic (ROC) curve analysis to identify factors that predicted proficient performance.

Results: The mean score was 81% (95% confidence interval, 76% - 86%). Scores correlated well with the mean number of ETIs performed annually and with the mean number supervised annually (r = 0.6, p = 0.001 for both). ROC curve analysis identified that physicians would obtain a proficient score if they had performed an average of at least three ETIs annually (sensitivity = 90%, specificity = 64%, AUC = 0.87, p = 0.001) or supervised an average of at least five ETIs annually (sensitivity = 90%, specificity = 59%, AUC = 0.81, p = 0.006) over the previous two years.

Conclusion: Performing at least three or supervising at least five ETIs annually, averaged over a two-year period, predicted proficient performance on a simulation-based skills assessment. We advocate for proactive maintenance and enhancement of skills, particularly for those who infrequently perform this procedure.

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Competence*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Emergency Medicine*
  • Humans
  • Intubation, Intratracheal / statistics & numerical data*
  • Laryngoscopy
  • Medical Staff, Hospital*