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Cardiac Arrest Nurse Leadership (CANLEAD) trial: a simulation-based randomised controlled trial implementation of a new cardiac arrest role to facilitate cognitive offload for medical team leaders


Background Medical team leaders in cardiac arrest teams are routinely subjected to disproportionately high levels of cognitive burden. This simulation-based study explored whether the introduction of a dedicated ‘nursing team leader’ is an effective way of cognitively offloading medical team leaders of cardiac arrest teams. It was hypothesised that reduced cognitive load may allow medical team leaders to focus on high-level tasks resulting in improved team performance.

Methods This randomised controlled trial used a series of in situ simulations performed in two Australian emergency departments in 2018–2019. Teams balanced on experience were randomised to either control (traditional roles) or intervention (designated nursing team leader) groups. No crossover between groups occurred with each participant taking part in a single simulation. Debriefing data were collected for thematic analysis and quantitative evaluation of self-reported cognitive load and task efficiency was evaluated using the NASA Task Load Index (NTLX) and a ‘task time checklist’ which was developed for this trial.

Results Twenty adult cardiac arrest simulations (120 participants) were evaluated. Intervention group medical team leaders had significantly lower NTLX scores (238.4, 95% CI 192.0 to 284.7) than those in control groups (306.3, 95% CI 254.9 to 357.6; p=0.02). Intervention group medical team leaders working alongside a designated nursing leader role had significantly lower cognitive loads than their control group counterparts (206.4 vs 270.5, p=0.02). Teams with a designated nurse leader role had improved time to defibrillator application (23.5 s vs 59 s, p=0.004), faster correction of ineffective compressions (7.5 s vs 14 s, p=0.04), improved compression fraction (91.3 vs 89.9, p=0.048), and shorter time to address reversible causes (107.1 s vs 209.5 s, p=0.002).

Conclusion Dedicated nursing team leadership in simulation based cardiac arrest teams resulted in cognitive offload for medical leaders and improved team performance.

  • cardiac care
  • treatment
  • resuscitation
  • nursing
  • emergency departments

Data availability statement

All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as online supplemental information. All data relevant to this study are included in this manuscript. Research protocols may be acquired by emailing the principle author.

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