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Open Access How do paramedics learn and maintain the skill of tracheal intubation? A rapid evidence review

Introduction: Endotracheal intubation has been considered a core skill for all paramedics since the inception of the profession in the 1970s, and continues to be taught within the majority of pre-registration paramedic training programmes. However, the standards of both training and assessment of competence in intubation vary considerably between institutions; this has been compounded by reduced opportunities for supervised clinical practice within the operating theatre environment.

The College of Paramedics’ Airway Working Group commissioned a rapid evidence review, to inform a consensus statement on paramedic intubation, with the research question: How do paramedics learn and maintain the skill of tracheal intubation?

Methods: Rapid evidence reviews are literature reviews that use methods to accelerate or streamline the traditional systematic review process. Randomised controlled trials, quasi-randomised controlled trials, prospective and retrospective observational studies, systematic reviews and qualitative studies, published from 1970 onwards, were all eligible for inclusion. The search was restricted to paramedics/paramedic students and learning/maintaining the skill of tracheal intubation.

Results: A comprehensive search of CINAHL, MEDLINE and Google Scholar was undertaken. Ten papers were classed as sufficiently relevant for inclusion. They identified that there is no clear definition of a paramedic having ‘learnt’ the skill of intubation. Suggested measures include first-pass success of 90% for pre-hospital intubation, or a range of measures, such as intubation success and complication rates, laryngoscopy technique and decision-making. Intubation training should use a range of modalities, including didactic lectures, videos and practical sessions on multiple types of airway manikins. Supervision by experienced faculty is required.

Little is known about how paramedics maintain their skill in intubation, given the lack of clinical opportunity. Yearly skills retraining can help, and can be enhanced by demonstrations/lectures from experienced faculty.

Conclusion: Further research is needed to understand how paramedics maintain their skill in intubation, given the limited opportunities to use the skill in a clinical setting and lack of opportunities with UK ambulance services for retraining.

Keywords: intubation; paramedic; skill acquisition; skill retention

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2018

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