Students teach students lifesaving skills

Rather than following the standard and becoming certified in Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) at the end of their fourth year of medical school, some students at the COM tackle the difficult training much earlier. In fact, several go on to teach the critical-care concepts to their peers.

Under the direction of Steven Robicsek, M.D., Ph.D., clinical assistant professor in the department of anesthesiology, a group of about 15 second-year med students completed the complex course during their free time this past winter and are certified by the American Heart Association in ACLS, thanks to their volunteer instructors – third- and fourth-year medical students.

“We’ve been running this program for about four years,” Robicsek said. “It is a credit to the students. They are the ones who put the energy into it.”

Second-year med students train for Advanced Cardiac Life Support

The older students must teach their junior colleagues a few principles before they begin the actual ACLS instruction, such as ECG recognition, cardiovascular physiology and pharmacology. That is followed up with lectures and hands-on training using the human patient simulator. The course takes approximately 10 to 15 hours of the students’ time during a two-month period.

“There is a real advantage for the younger students to learn from peers as opposed to learning from me,” Robicsek said. “They see someone just one or two years ahead of them with a fairly good command of the material, and they feel they can do the same.

“It also provides an opportunity for students to learn how to teach,” he continued. “The instructors are doing a phenomenal job. I am humbled by how good they are.”

Barbara Wilkey is a fourth-year student who teaches the ACLS class to her younger colleagues. She soon will begin her residency in anesthesiology at the University of Colorado, Denver.

“The ACLS class offered in the second year of medical school is really the first time students get to integrate physiology, pharmacology, differential diagnosis, treatment, outcome and follow-up,” she explained. “It is also a time to begin developing an organized thinking process.
“Through teaching, I love being able to shape their problem-solving abilities,” she continued. “It is also great to see them shine later on, when they understand things their colleagues do not. In general, these are super motivated people who are fun to teach.