Anaesthesiology Intensive Therapy, 2009,XLI,3; 125-128

A survey of basic resuscitation knowledge among medical personnel of a paediatric hospital

*Małgorzata Grześkowiak1, Alicja Bartkowska-Śniatkowska2, Jowita Rosada-Kurasińska2, Karolina Puklińska2

1Department of Teaching Anaesthesiology and Intensive Therapy, Medical University of Poznań

2Department of Paediatric Anaesthesiology and Intensive Therapy, Medical University of Poznań

  • Table 1. Test results concerning resuscitation of adults (number of correct answers)
  • Table 2. Test results concerning resuscitation in children (number of correct answers)
  • Table 3. Results regarding resuscitation in infants (number of correct answers)
  • Table 4. Questionnaire results

Background. The European Resuscitation Council (ERC) algorithms for cardiopulmonary resuscitation have undergone many changes, the latest version being published in 2005. To establish the level of general knowledge of resuscitation algorithms, we audited physicians and nurses in a tertiary paediatric hospital.

Methods. The audit was performed among 64 physicians and 54 nurses. They were allocated to the following subgroups: surgeons, paediatricians, surgical nurses, and non-surgical nurses. A written open examination was conducted, containing response questions on basic resuscitation of adults, children and infants. The participants also completed a questionnaire concerning their knowledge of current guidelines and their activity in continuing education. 

Results. The vast majority of those audited were not familiar with the 2005 ERC guidelines. Most of the physicians and nurses were not able to differentiate between an adult and a child. They did not know the recommended number of artificial breaths to be delivered to a patient with preserved cardiac function, or the number of resuscitation cycles (delivered by one or two rescuers). They could not describe the open airway manoeuvres and volumes of artificial breaths. Depending on subgroups, only 14.3-84.6% of participants knew how to deliver chest compressions to adults, 21.4-80.8% knew how to deliver them to children, and 19.2-75.4% knew how to deliver them to infants. 17.8-23.1% of nurses and 28.6-47.4% of physicians had completed basic life support courses. 0-14.3% of nurses and few physicians declared a familiarity with the 2005 guidelines, but only 35% of them were aware of the latest modifications.

Conclusion. The medical staff of a paediatric hospital was not adequately trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation and their knowledge about current recommendations was minimal. The authors suggest that life support courses should be mandatory for all physicians and nurses.

Over the last decade, the resuscitation principles have changed repeatedly. The recent guidelines were presented in 2005 [1]. Thus, the resuscitation-related knowledge among medical staff should be verified and undated. Numerous studies show that in many cases the retention of knowledge amongst physicians and nurses is inadequate [2, 3].

The objective of the present study was to evaluate the knowledge among medical personnel of a paediatric hospital concerning principles of basic life support.


The study group consisted of hospital employees, physicians and nurses, who voluntarily consented to the test. Anaesthesiologists were excluded.  

The research tool was a written test with open questions assessing the knowledge of basic life support (BLS) and a questionnaire concerning the knowledge of latest guidelines and participation in courses. The test questions checked the knowledge of issues regarding adults, children and infants, in particular, the principles of chest compressions (method, place and frequency), artificial lung ventilation (number of rescue breath) in victims with the circulation preserved, manoeuvres to provide patent airways, compression:ventilation ratio in the presence of one or two rescuers and the respiratory volumes recommended in the guidelines.

The results were statistically analysed using the Pearson’s X2 test. P<0.005 was considered significant.


The study population included 118 employees of a paediatric hospital (64 physicians and 54 nurses) constituting about 25% of the personnel working in that hospital. The population was gender-diverse (92 women and 26 men). The biggest group consisted of the 31-40-year-old individuals (n=44). The results were divided according to specializations or profiles of employment: N – nurses, SN – surgical nurses (including scrub and anaesthesiological nurses), P – physicians and S – surgeons.

Over half of respondents did not know the definition of an adult. The highest number of wrong answers concerned the place and frequency of chest compressions (significant differences were observed between nurses and physicians). The rules of resuscitation strategies in the presence of two rescuers were unknown (higher deficits among nurses compared to physicians). Only few nurses knew the tidal volumes currently recommended (Table 1).

Moreover, the definition of a child was poorly known. Amongst surgical nurses, the knowledge of paediatric resuscitation was two- or threefold higher than among the remaining nurses. In the group of physicians, such differences were not observed and over 50% of them gave correct answers (Table 2).

The definition of an infant was best known, which, however, had no effect on the knowledge resuscitation procedures in this age group. As for chest compressions, all elements of the procedure were unknown for the majority of nurses of both groups, except for the technique of their administration (Table 3).

Interestingly, only every fifth nurse completed first aid courses, in the group of physicians – every second. The knowledge concerning the year of revision of guidelines was unsatisfactory and the sources – scarce (Table 4).


The knowledge of cardio-pulmonary resuscitation among the hospital medical personnel was selective. The majority of respondents (physicians and nurses) did not properly define the age ranges of an adult and a child. Due to lack of this knowledge, a victim was qualified to the wrong age group and the resuscitation provided using inappropriate algorithms. It should be mentioned that the European Resuscitation Council changed the adult-child age limit in 2005. The answers of respondents confirm their lack of knowledge of the latest guidelines.

The knowledge of techniques of chest compressions was fragmentary, and varied responses were found in the group of physicians and nurses. The principles to carry out this procedure have also been recently modified: ”the centre of the chest” was assumed the place of compression; in children and infants the depth of compressions was increased – 1/3 of the anterior-posterior chest dimension; pressures with both hands were  allowed in children [1].

The majority of medical personnel did not know the frequency of artificial lung ventilation at the circulation preserved in an adult, child or infant as well as manoeuvres to provide patent airways in these age groups. According to the current ERC guidelines, hyperventilation, also during lung ventilation with the circulation preserved, should be avoided. Moreover, the physicians` and nurses` knowledge of resuscitation cycles (number of compressions:number of breaths) in the presence of one and two rescuers  was inadequate; this is a novel guideline introduced by ERC. In all victims, the ratio should be identical – 30 compressions:2 breaths. The proportion can be changed into 15:2 only in children and infants, provided that the resuscitation is administered by two rescuers [1]. The recommended tidal volume (6-7 mL kg-1), identical for all victims, is another relevant ERC guideline. Hyperventilation used in circulatory arrest worsens the prognosis and survival [1], yet the majority of physicians and nurses could not define proper tidal volumes.  

Insufficient resuscitation-related knowledge among the medical personnel has been widely documented, e.g. in the studies amongst resident paediatricians [2, 3], intensive therapy nurses[4] or even anaesthesiologists [5]. Our earlier studies demonstrated lack of resuscitation knowledge among graduates of medical universities [6].

The low numbers of nurses and physicians taking part in first aid courses is alarming. The European Resuscitation Council prepared unified curricula as a basis for courses  in non-instrumental and instrumental resuscitation in adults and children/infants [7, 8, 9]. Unfortunately, such courses are not obligatory in Poland, although continuity of education in this field broadens the knowledge and improves effectiveness of resuscitation. It is well known that the knowledge acquired during the courses is gradually forgotten; nevertheless, its level is high for some period [10, 11]. The Utstein guidelines recommend updating the knowledge every half a year [12].


1. Knowledge of cardio-pulmonary resuscitation among the medical personnel of a paediatric hospital was selective and their knowledge of guidelines inadequate.

2. First aid courses involve too low numbers of nurses and physicians. 



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10.  Su E, Schmidt TA, Mann NC, Zechnich AD: Acontrolled trial to assess decay in acquired knowledge among paramedics completing apediatric resuscitation course. Acad Emerg Med 2000; 7: 779-786.

11.  Gass DA, Curry L: Physicians’ and nurses’ retention of knowledge and skill after training in cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Can Med Assoc J 1983; 128: 550-551.

12.  Chamberlain DA, Hazinski MF: Education in resuscitation: an ILCOR symposium: Utstein Abbey: Stavanger, Norway: June 22-24, 2001. Circulation 2003; 108: 2575-2594.



*Małgorzata Grześkowiak
Zakład Dydaktyki Anestezjologii
i Intensywnej Terapii UM w Poznaniu
ul. Św. Marii Magdaleny 14, 61-861 Poznań
tel.: 0-61 668 78 36, fax: 0-61 668 78 66

Received: 22.05.2009
Accepted: 25.06.2009