General surgeons and the Advanced Trauma Life Support course: is it time to refocus?

J Trauma. 1995 Nov;39(5):929-33; discussion 933-4. doi: 10.1097/00005373-199511000-00018.


Objective: The aim of this study was to assess Advanced Trauma Life Support (ATLS) training status of general surgeons, its perceived utility, and its relation to clinical trauma practice.

Methods: A national sample of 1300 general surgeons was surveyed by mail about trauma training, ATLS status, trauma call, and confidence in clinical trauma care abilities.

Results: Response rate was 61%. Respondents most commonly (67%) felt they learned a great deal about trauma care in residency training; 13% responded similarly regarding ATLS. Course participation within 4 years of the survey was reported by 33% of respondents. Nearly 75% of those not taking the course cited primary reasons related to relevance (30%), redundancy (29%), and credentialing (15%). Inaccessibility, inconvenience, and cost were lesser factors. Of those expressing extreme confidence with trauma resuscitation, 40% had taken ATLS; 15% of those expressing a lesser degree of confidence had taken ATLS.

Conclusions: The ATLS course represents a standard of initial trauma care education in which only one-third of surgeons report current participation. Many view ATLS as not relevant or useful, yet take trauma call. To ensure standard education and patient care, an ATLS course curriculum specifically geared to the general surgeon should be developed and made a mandatory component of residency training or a requirement for board certification and trauma call credentialing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Competence
  • Education, Medical, Continuing
  • General Surgery / education*
  • Humans
  • Life Support Care*
  • Sampling Studies
  • Traumatology / education*
  • United States
  • Wounds and Injuries / therapy*