Building capacity for ATLS trauma education: role of nurse practitioners and physician assistants.

Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

Trauma Surg Acute Care Open


montana; polson


OBJECTIVES: Advanced Trauma Life Support (ATLS) focuses on care of injured patients in the first hour of resuscitation. Expanded demand for courses has led to a concurrent need for new instructors. Nurse practitioners and physician assistants (NPs/PAs) work on trauma services and duties include patient, staff, and outreach education. The goal of this project was to assess NP/PA self-reported knowledge and skills pertinent to ATLS and identify potential barriers to becoming instructors.

MATERIALS: This was a voluntary 91-question survey emailed to NP/PA lists obtained from professional societies and online social media channels. NPs/PAs completed a survey reflecting self-reported knowledge, experience, comfort level, and barriers to teaching ATLS interactive discussions and skills. Responses were recorded using a Likert scale and results were documented as percentages. Number of years of experience versus perceived knowledge and comfort teaching were compared using a χ

RESULTS: There were 1696 completed surveys. Most NPs/PAs thought they had adequate knowledge and experience to teach interactive discussions and skills. Those with more years of experience and those who completed more ATLS courses had higher percentages. The number 1 barrier to teaching was lack of formal teaching experience followed by perceived hierarchy concerns. Experience and comfort with skills that fell below 50% were pediatric airway (49.5%), needle and surgical cricothyrotomy (49.8% and 44.8%), diagnostic peritoneal lavage (21.6%), and venous cutdown (20.8%).

CONCLUSION: NPs/PAs with experience in trauma reported having the knowledge and skill to teach ATLS. A majority are comfortable teaching interactive discussions and skills for which they are knowledgeable. The primary barrier to teaching was lack of formal teaching experience, which is covered in the ATLS Instructor course. Training NPs/PAs to become instructors would increase the instructor base and allow for increased promulgation of ATLS and trauma education.