An assessment of theoretical knowledge and psychomotor skills of Basic Life Support Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation provision by Emergency Medical Services in a province in South Africa

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

Introduction: When high quality cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is performed, survival rates can approach 50% following witnessed out-of-hospital cardiac arrest. However, survival rates are more commonly much worse in both the in-hospital and out-of-hospital context and range from 0% to 18%. There is a paucity of evidence surrounding the competency at which basic life support (BLS) CPR is provided among Emergency Medical Services (EMS) personnel in South Africa, and quality assurance mechanisms are generally scarce or do not exist. Methods: A descriptive analytical study design was used to assess theoretical knowledge and psychomotor skills of BLS CPR provision by EMS personnel in a province in South Africa. An assessment questionnaire from a 'BLS for healthcare providers' course was used to determine theoretical knowledge. Cardiac arrest simulations were video recorded to assess psychomotor skills. BLS instructors independently scored the latter. Results: Overall competency of BLS CPR among the participants (n=115) was poor. The median knowledge assessment was 50% and the median skills 22%. Only 25% of the items tested showed that the participants applied the relevant knowledge to the equivalent skill and the nature and strength of theory influencing skills was small. However, certain demographic and circumstantial variables such as sector of employment, guidelines they were trained according to, age, and location where trained had a significant effect (p<0.05) on knowledge and skills. Discussion: This study suggests that theoretical knowledge has a small but notable role to play in psychomotor skills performance of BLS CPR. Demographic and circumstantial variables that were shown to affect knowledge and skill may be used to improve training and therefore competency. The results of this study highlight the need for continuous, and perhaps tailored BLS CPR instruction to bring the diverse set of EMS personnel currently practicing in South Africa up to international competency standards.

Includes bibliographical references