Hospital Saves Time with HeartCode® ACLS while Improving Staff Preparation

St. Mark’s Hospital, in Salt Lake City, Utah, is a 317-bed hospital that includes an acute care ER, rehabilitation unit, and a Level III Trauma Center. Continually recognized for its high-quality performance, being recognized as “One of 50 Top Cardiovascular Hospitals” in the nation by Thomas Reuters, it strives to provide care for patients in harmony with a long tradition of quality and compassion. In keeping with this mission, St. Mark’s Hospital is focused on improving the quality of care delivered to its patients and does so by adopting training programs like HeartCode.  


An Opportunity to Improve Training Consistency

While education leaders at St. Mark’s Hospital were pleased with the content of the American Heart Association (AHA) ACLS courses offered via classroom instruction, they recognized that there were opportunities to improve. Instructors were inconsistent in their teaching and valuation practices. Additionally, the hospital’s equipment was old and did not have the ability to provide feedback or measure performance. As a result, staff mastery of the required skills was inconsistent. Staff members were not fully prepared, and they had poor communication skills on the floor during codes. 

Online and Simulation-based Training

St. Mark’s Hospital educators decided to combine HeartCode ACLS with simulation-based training.  Assigned through the HealthStream Learning Center (HLC), students complete HeartCode ACLS Part 1, leveraging MicroSim technology to create realistic patient scenarios, giving the learner the opportunity to master the AHA 2010 guidelines for CPR & ECC.  Then, students register for a megacode simulation with skills practice and testing.  During the megacode simulation, instructors use both pre-programmed and on-the-fly scenarios.  The hospital offers an annual mock code to test ACLS skills.  Additionally, impromptu monthly mock codes are held, to which nurses and other staff working on the hospital floor are required to respond.  

Overcoming Initial Staff Resistance to Change

As expected, there was initial resistance.  This was addressed by discussing the training program at department meetings. Also, teaching staff offered opportunities for nurses to practice on manikins on the floor and held contests and raffles to stimulate interest.  

By adopting HeartCode and megacode simulations, St. Mark’s has been able to:

  • Decrease learner classroom time for Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) by eight hours, plus two hours in the skills lab
  • Decrease ACLS instructor hours by eight hours
  • Improve unit performance and communication practices during code situations
  • Build a stronger learner-focused environment to ensure that learners are more prepared when they start ACLS
  • Continuously improve staff preparation for life threatening emergencies through regular ACLS practice and skill measurement 

“While we have had a lot of fun with the program, one of the most important things it did was help foster staff accountability, which is a major accomplishment. Now, staff members are better prepared.”

– Jennifer Teerlink, RN, MSN; Director of Education, St. Mark's Hospital 

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