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American Heart Association: CPR Education Courses are 'Falling Short'

Courses fail to improve retention of life-saving methods.

CPR education is lacking, and more people would survive cardiac arrest if shortcomings were addressed, the American Heart Association (AHA) said in its journal Circulation.

Standardized training, both online and in-person, are "falling short and not always implemented to optimize retention and mastery," organization researchers stated.

“Poor CPR quality is preventable. Educational activities are not consistently achieving their intended outcomes, as proven by significant decay in provider skills within months after training,” said Adam Cheng, M.D., associate professor at the University of Calgary, Alberta Children’s Hospital, in a statement.

The organization is striving to double survival rates from cardiac arrest to 38% in-hospital and 15.8% for out-of-hospital as well as double bystander response to out-of-hospital cardiac arrest to 62% by the year 2020.

The statement marks the first time that resuscitation specialists have applied education best practices to resuscitation training, offering consolidated guidance to CPR instructors, educators and others who develop relevant content. It is applicable to all resuscitation training programs with students as diverse as medical professionals to bystanders, according to the AHA.

The statement’s authors systematically examined the relevant published research, as well as published reviews relevant to the topic. The AHA then held an educational summit focused on eight key topic areas that are most likely to lead to improvements in educational and patient outcomes. Small-group sessions and roundtable discussions were integrated into the summit which allowed refinement of the recommendations coming from the literature review.

According to the AHA, training should focus on the following eight key elements:
•Mastery learning and deliberate practice (practice until learners demonstrate mastery of skills)
•Spaced practice (shorter, more frequent learning sessions)
•Contextual learning (use of “real world” training experiences recognized by learners)
•Feedback and debriefing (providing structured opportunities for reflection and feedback)
•Assessment (measuring competency throughout a course with a variety of tools)
•Innovative educational strategies (exploration of gamification, social and digital platforms to make learning “stick”)
•Faculty development (continuous coaching and training of instructors)
•Knowledge translation and implementation (localize programs to fit learners’ needs)

“If we want to move the needle on cardiac arrest survival rates in the next two years, then we must focus on improving the quality of resuscitation education and knowledge translation efforts,” Cheng said. “We identified an opportunity to build on the current scientific process in order to close the gap between desired and actual performance in resuscitation events – both for lay providers and healthcare professionals.”

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