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My ALS (Advanced Life Support) Course Experience

Hi, I'm Dr Nuren Tasgaonkar, an IMG from India. I attended the ALS course when I was in the UK for my PLAB 2 exam, and today, I will be talking about my experience and trying to give you all the information you will need about it. I will be discussing it under the following headings:

When to do it?

How to book it?

Differences between the 2 types available

What to expect in the course?

My experience of the day of the course

Bonus- Criteria to become an ALS instructor

When to book the course?

You might choose to do it before or after your first NHS job. It is completely up to you. The reason some IMGs do it before their first NHS job is that it is a desirable/essential criteria in many job requirements nowadays. You could also do it after landing your first NHS job, where you can utilize your study budget to pay for the expenses. The ALS certification will be valid for 4 years.

How to book it?

There are 2 types of courses available: e-ALS and ALS. Both of them can be booked from the official Resuscitation Council UK website from a centre of your choice. There are plenty of centres conducting them across the UK. But try to book your date as early as you can because the seats are limited and get booked quickly.

Differences between the 2 types

The e-ALS course is cheaper. It was around 500 pounds with taxes around the time I booked it. The 2-day ALS course costs approximately 650 pounds. Both are equivalent to each other. You will receive a course manual for both about 1 month prior to the stipulated day of course conduction. You are supposed to use this as a guide to prepare for an MCQ test, which will be held at the end of the course, along with your Cardiac Arrest Simulation Test (CASTest).

What to expect in the course?

The e-ALS course is a 1-day practical course. You will be given access to some video modules regarding the resuscitation protocol and other important topics. You will have to complete watching these videos and attempt a pre-course MCQ assessment at least 1 day before the offline course. The videos themselves are extremely helpful and interesting to learn from.

On the other hand, the 2-day course will have all the topics taught in the videos demonstrated live on day 1. You will also be given a chance to practise those skills. Day 2 for both the courses remains the same, where you will be taught the various airway management techniques, the A to E approach of assessing an acutely unwell patient, the protocol to be followed in case of a cardiac arrest and most importantly, how to lead a resuscitation team. You'll be continuously assessed on your technical and non-technical skills throughout the day.

My Experience

I had chosen the e-ALS course. I spent around 2-3 weeks of dedicated study from the videos and course manual. I passed the pre-course assessment MCQ test. I found the videos to be a very good resource for the test. Learning from them will cover the major portion of your questions.

A tip I'd like to give is to focus more on ECG rhythm recognition and the management of various arrhythmias. Focus on the algorithms. Make sure to revise the test questions and learn from your mistakes before the final day of the course. The test also gives a fair idea of what topics to focus more on for the final MCQ test.

On the day of the course, we were introduced to the faculty team the agenda for the day and were divided into groups of 6 healthcare professionals each. The ALS instructors are a fantastic mix of doctors, nurses and paramedics. We were then taught about airway management, defibrillation and other life-saving measures. Each of us was given a chance to individually practise our skills and ask any queries we might have had. We then had to role-play various scenarios of cardiac arrest and its management as a team leader.

I'd like to suggest you volunteer and practise as much as you can because you'll realize your mistakes and the steps you are missing only when you perform. Don't hesitate to practice and ask any doubts you may have to the instructors. Pay attention to all the details, use your team members wisely, be clear with your instructions and follow the protocol.

After the practise sessions, we were divided into 2 groups. One group gave the MCQ test first, and the other gave the CASTest first. You have to score a minimum of 75/100 to pass the MCQ test. You'll have 2 chances on the same day at your OSCE test. You will be given a test scenario, and you will have to lead your team.

In case you pass the MCQ test and fail your CASTest, you will be given a chance to retake the test within 3 months at any ALS centre. If you fail your MCQ test and pass your CASTest, you can again retake the exam within 3 months at any ALS centre. If you fail both, you will have to book the whole course again. You will receive your ALS Provider certificate within a week.

Bonus Tip - Criteria to Become an ALS Instructor

If you are GMC registered, score more than 80 on the MCQ test, and the instructors find you to be a candidate with instructor potential, you may be offered to apply to be an ALS instructor. You will have to take an instructor course for it. More details can be found on the Resuscitation Council UK website.

Overall, it was an excellent course, which will improve your clinical skills tremendously. You will have fun and make some great friends at the course. Don't take the course lightly, and do your best to clear it.

Need More Help?

TrewLink has information on various topics that can help you in your UK journey as an IMG. Feel free to check out the website. In case of any further doubts, feel free to contact me. You can register and find me on the website for further support using this link.

Good luck!


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