Assessing advanced life support (ALS) competence: Victorian practices

Julie L. Preston, Judy Currey, Glenn M. Eastwood

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Advanced life support (ALS) assessments are performed to assess nurses' abilities to recognize cardiac arrest events, and appropriately manage patients according to resuscitation guidelines. Although there is evidence for conducting assessments after initial ALS education, there is little evidence to guide educators about ongoing assessments in terms of methods, format and frequency. The aim of this study was to determine methods used by educators to assess ALS skills and knowledge for nurses in Victorian intensive care units. This descriptive study used telephone interviews to collect data. Data were analysed using content analysis. Twenty intensive care educators participated in this study. Thirteen educators (65%) were employed in public hospitals, and 7 educators (35%) worked in private hospitals across 12 Level 3 (60%) and 8 Level 2 (40%) intensive care units. Results showed all educators used scenarios to assess ALS skills, with 12 educators (60%) including an additional theoretical test. There was variability in ALS assessment frequency, assessment timing in relation to initial/ongoing education, person performing the assessment, and the assessor/participant ratio. Nineteen educators (95%) reported ALS skill competency assessments occurred annually; 1 educator (5%) reported assessments occurred every 2 years. Assessments were conducted during a designated month (n = 10), numerous times throughout the year (n = 8), or on nurses' employment anniversaries (n = 2). All educators reported many nurses avoided undertaking assessments. Variability in ongoing ALS assessment methods was evident in Victorian intensive care units with some units applying evidence-based practices. Consideration should be given to the purposes and methods of conducting annual ALS assessments to ensure resources and strategies are directed appropriately. To encourage nurses to retain ALS skills and knowledge, regular practices are recommended as an alternative to assessments. However, further research is required to support this notion.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)164-171
Number of pages8
JournalAustralian Critical Care
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Advanced life support (ALS)
  • Assessment
  • Competency

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