This study assesses the retention of core knowledge and skills among healthcare providers (HCPs) who attended a Basic Life Support (BLS) course. The format for teaching this course changed in 2006 and a review of the effectiveness and acceptability of the new course was considered vital. Studies indicate that early and effective cardiopulmonary resuscitation improves the chances of survival in cardiac arrest victims; however, the knowledge and skills of HCPs in basic life support vary. International recommendations on the BLS course were that HCPs repeat the course every two years. However, no studies have been conducted in South Africa to determine the ideal time when HCPs should be re-evaluated to ensure that they retain adequate knowledge and skills. This study was conducted at a training centre in a hospital in KwaZulu-Natal, where a new format for training was introduced in 2006. Participants were HCPs who had completed a BLS course. The sample was taken sequentially from half of the annual intake of a BLS course three months after completion of the course. Data were collected using the accredited American Heart Association written test and the Critical Skills Checklist, and a further questionnaire was developed to collect variables such as demography and profession. Results indicate that skills retention was good and, although there was some fall-off in skills and knowledge, there was no significant difference between the scores at the end of the course and retest scores. Staff working in accident and emergency departments had more practical experience and their knowledge and skills retention was better than that of staff working in other areas of the hospital. Nurses performed nearly as well as doctors and are an important skills resource in the management of patients who need to be resuscitated. All participants were satisfied with the new format and had no suggestions on how to improve it
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