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ACLS - The Pace and Place Is Up to You

Monday February 23, 2004
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How would you like to take an ACLS course that works for you - on your home computer or on your laptop while commuting to work on the train? In 2001, Saint Michael's Medical Center, a division of Cathedral Healthcare System in Newark, NJ, purchased its first HeartCode ACLS Training System, an American Heart Association (AHA) software product that allows ACLS students to do just that - take AHA courses on a computer instead of attending a traditional class. Instructors at Saint Michael's Medical Center, an American Heart Association ACLS and BLS training center, taught CPR and ACLS to approximately 6,600 people last year - more than 100 of these individuals participated in the HeartCode ACLS System.
How Does the Course Work?
The HeartCode System, a product of Laerdal Medical Corporation, supplements traditional classes with individual self-paced learning. All lessons taught in traditional classroom courses are included in HeartCode. If ACLS students want to learn about a medication, they can click on the computer icon and find all the required information. There are narrated lessons on -
· Airway management
· Electrical therapy
· Pharmacology
· EKG rhythms
· Special situations and treatment of patients in various rhythms
How Is the Testing Done?
The testing segments include scenarios on -
· EKG
· Mega code
· Intubation
· ACLS
The EKG test has 20 rhythm strips and allows students 10 minutes to complete. Mega Code is an interactive unit that allows individuals taking the course to manage a code from the time of the patient's arrival until stabilization. Students might receive a Mega-Code scenario that describes an alert patient who is experiencing a possible MI. The history is given and patient management is begun. Management includes recognition of the initial rhythm and treatment of symptoms. If the patient deteriorates into cardiac arrest, the VF/VT algorithm is initiated. Individuals taking the program must oversee their team and manage the patient throughout the code. Management may include -
· CPR
· Intubation
· IV insertion
· Defibrillation
· Medication
· Pacing
· A variety of realistic complications
Nuts and Bolts
The HeartCode System allows ACLS students 32 hours for course completion, including tutorial and testing. Those individuals who have taken ACLS in the past generally only need a few hours to complete HeartCode. Once registered into the system, they can sign in and work on the computer at their convenience. If they need to return to work or wish to review materials, they can sign off and return at a later time.
Positive Feedback
Most people who use the HeartCode System find it user-friendly and educational. If students have trouble with one area of an ACLS skill, they can review the material and retest that segment. Anytime they have to take a retest, a new scenario is used. When students complete the program, the HeartCode System prints out a report for their records, and they will receive an ACLS card from the AHA Training Center. In fact, the HeartCode System is the only interactive, self-learning system available that offers an AHA course completion card.
Another advantage of the HeartCode System over traditional ACLS courses is that employee overtime is reduced. The course takes less time to complete, and staff can be scheduled during slow periods on the job. Healthcare providers come to Saint Michael's from other hospitals, nursing agencies, and a variety of other facilities to use the HeartCode System. Healthcare providers from as far away as Alaska fly in to Saint Michael's to take the course on the HeartCode System and then leave for their next job assignment. It's a system that works - wherever ACLS students may be.
Scott Larson, EMT, IT, is the director of the EMS Training Institute and oversees the CPR/ACLS training of the staff at Saint Michael's Medical Center. Katerina Moklak, RN, BS, CCRN, is a cardiac nurse educator and CPR/ACLS instructor at Saint Michael's Medical Center.
Editor's Note: For more information on the HeartCode system, contact Scott Larson at 973-877-5094, or go to: www.chsemstraining.org.