The Australian response to gun violence…less is more

This week, Annals of Internal Medicine published a well written editorial about how Australia has managed to significantly reduce gun violence with a nod to the measures it took back in 1996. It’s unfortunate the physician base within the US hasn’t been more vocal to advocate on behalf of patient safety or even prevention. The attempt to combat gun violence with more guns (and arming more people) doesn’t seem to be working. It would be awesome to see stronger advocacy from a well organized group of physicians who have the ability to exert considerable influence. Until US physicians advocate more vocally, it appears to be an opportunity lost.

 

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Patient safety strategies ready for primetime

This week, Annals of Internal Medicine published a critical review for strategies designed to enhance patient safety. The best part, the authors summarized their findings into a 1/2 page table outlining 10 “strongly encouraged” and 12 “encouraged” strategies…this makes  for a quick read! Extremely important for those of us who’s attention spans are so short that we can’t even wait in a line at the grocery store without checking our email twice, posting a tweet and reading the daily news.

Source: Shekelle et al. Ann Intern Med 2013 Ann Intern Med. 158:365-368. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-158-5-201303051-00001

Source: Shekelle et al. Ann Intern Med 2013 Ann Intern Med. 158:365-368. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-158-5-201303051-00001

I really liked this list and I think it’s great to publish  for people to review. You can look at what you’re doing at your own institution and if there are things missing, it provides a basis for advocacy.

It’s interesting that many strategies relate to intensive care medicine. I’m not sure if that’s a function of the interest by intensivists/anesthesists in patient safety, a result of funding bias towards ICU-level patient safety studies or maybe that’s where much of the difference can be made (at least from a mortality perspective). What this list also demonstrates is that there are many areas within primary care, trauma care and emergency care that require attention. 

The authors mention that “pre-operative checklists and anesthesia checklists” are strongly encouraged. I agree! But what about checklists during acute resuscitations? We simply don’t know because the evidence hasn’t been developed yet. Certainly I think this can act as a call to those funding and researching patient safety in acute care medicine . Cliff Reid wrote about the “Resus Room Life Guard” several months ago…we don’t know if this is a good idea or improves patient oriented outcomes because it hasn’t been studied. Though intuitively, it seems like a great idea!

There was also no mention about the importance of adequate discharge follow-up from the ED…some hypothesis generating studies that patients who don’t have great follow-up are at risk. But clearly more studies are needed.

Finally, for those of us interested in simulation, it offers additional support that team training and simulation exercises with a focus on patient safety are worthwhile undertakings. A recent study from demonstrated improved communication and teamwork in a trauma centre following in-situ trauma simulation training. In addition, there appeared to be some patient oriented improvements including improved speed without compromise in critical task completion.

The list of strategies is worth a read…see how you compare and see how your institution compares. If you’re not doing the “strong encouraged” items…its probably worth considering why not? Do you really need to put the femoral line in during the resuscitation or will the 2 large bore IVs suffice until the patient can be properly draped and line insertion done under fully sterile conditions? Do you wash your hands before and after every patient encounter? I know at our hospital we have people in the ED (maybe posing  with acute Percocet insufficiency) or hiding in the shadows…yet…they’re really monitoring our handwashing complicance.   While I have been known to get in arguments with them…they’re actually just trying to implement important patient safety measures.

#patientsafety.

That’s it for now. Feel free to post any thoughts/comments.

Hybrid Simulation…using patient actors to enhance simulation

I’ve gotten a bit behind in my posts mostly as I’ve just moved back from New Zealand but I’m hoping to get a few more regular posts. For those who’ve read this blog, you’ll know that I like to highlight innovative approaches to simulation. This post is mostly for those interested in medical simulation…hopefully providing some new ideas.

One of my interests is procedural skill acquisition and how simulation can be used to enhance learning. So when I came across this paper I thought it deserved mention. The authors, from the University of Toronto describe using “hybrid” simulation for teaching knee arthrocentesis among internal medicine residents. Residents went through a procedural skills curriculum where they received teaching and practice performing arthrocentesis. They had to interact with a standardized patient and explain risks/benefits of the procedure. Then they were evaluated on both technical & non-technical skills in a separate scenario. They demonstrated the feasibility of this approach and they showed high ratings of realism among trainees & standardized patients and it functions as a hypothesis generating study for if these acquired skills are translated to the clinical setting.

Great use of hybrid simulation for obstetrical scenario - live patient actor "giving birth". source: http://www.samuelmerritt.edu/hssc/task-trainers

Great use of hybrid simulation for obstetrical scenario – live patient actor “giving birth”. source: http://www.samuelmerritt.edu/hssc/task-trainers

Hybrid simulation is actually a pretty cool concept. For those are new to this, hybrid simulation combines patient interaction (using a standardized patient) with a bench model (or task trainer) that allows for procedural skill practice. The benefit of this technique is the learner gets to interact with a patient as if they’ll be the recipient of the procedure while also getting to master the technical skills of the procedure.

Using procedural competency as a goal in procedural training, hybrid simulation is an excellent method for integration into a training curriculum. In one definition of competency:

“it refers to a resident’s ability to safely prepare for, perform and navigate the complications of a procedure” (Mourad et al. J Gen Med 2010).

Hybrid simulation will allow the learner to manage each of these aspects. They practice how to prepare for the procedure (both technically and preparing the patient). This will include consenting the standardized patient to the risk and benefits. I think we often forget this key aspect and instead focus on the technical skill. Furthermore, hybrid simulation scenarios can also integrate complications and evaluate the learner as they manage both the technical and interpersonal issues that must be addressed.

Another group at the University of Ottawa has started using OSCEs as a method for evaluating procedural skills which also is quite innovative! I came across an abstract they recently presented and a quick google search revealed a manuscript that further outlines the integration of an OSCE for procedural skills. Definitely worth checking out.

In simulation, we spend thousands of dollars on advanced equipment that is designed to replicate real patient interaction. However, hybrid simulation shows us that we can enhance fidelity even more by using some imagination and combining a task trainer with a live actor.

Another example while I was in Auckland, I ran full trauma simulations with a live patient. At the helicopter base, we had an actor who had suffered a considerable trauma from a motor vehicle accident. Its very impressive to watch a team interact with a “real” patient compared to a manikin. There’s much greater concern with pain and emphasis towards communication of each management step – these are definitely lost during interaction with a manikin.

I think medical educators and those involved in curriculum design need to take the next step as we seek to improve procedural skill teaching in medicine – let’s start integrating live patient actors into our simulations. We’re starting to see that it’s feasible and that some considerable benefit can be ascertained. As we seek procedural competence, we cannot forgot the trainee should be evaluated for their ability to explain and work with a live patient throughout the procedure. Its not infrequent that trainees learn to perform a procedure but they have no idea the complication rate or even what can go wrong! Then when something does actually go wrong they haven’t thought about it. Integration of these  hybrid simulations will only enhance trainee skills and lead to improvements in patient safety – something we’re all working so hard to improve.

Information overload…staying up to date with new medical journal publications

As physicians, some of us love to read the latest journal publication while some of us don’t give a s@#!. Those in the latter category are more than happy to get the information at conferences or journal clubs in due time. There’s nothing wrong with these people…in fact, it could be argued this is a healthier approach than being addicted to your wireless device or computer waiting for the newest publication!

But for those of us who do get turned on by reading then talking about the newest publication the day it comes out “Epub ahead of print”, it can be a daunting task to stay up to date.

In our world where we’re exposed to up to the minute Twitter feeds, blog posts or push notifications, we can easily become overloaded and inundated with how to manage this information. The challenge is particularly difficult with journal publications. I admit, that I really enjoy reading the latest research data and while that doesn’t make me a bad person…it arguably makes me a less attentive husband (one woman’s opinion).

Are there any strategies for improving information intake and staying up to date with recent research? I don’t think this area is well taught in medical school or residency, partly due to the fact it’s a brand new method of information acquistion. Also, it’s rapidly changing with new sites and apps coming all the time.

I follow a few different journal topics including emergency medicine related, critical care, general medicine and medical education. Overall, this probably results in about 15-20 journals per month. I don’t read every article, nor do I read every abstract but I routinely read through table of contents or titles to make sure I’m staying up to date.

I’ve been thinking about this recently and while this post isn’t intended to be comprehensive, it does offer a few strategies that I’ve used to ensure I’m reading the newest evidence (any mention of a product/app below is only because I’ve found them helpful…I take no money from anyone). The following are in no particular order of preference. And if there’s an app or strategy I’m missing, please comment and I’ll add it to the post!

Here we go.

QxMD “Read”: I just started using this app and I really like it and I highly recommend it for any physician trying to keep up with the medical literature. And it’s FREE!  Anyways, it’s a Canadian company that “provides a single place to discover new research, read outstanding topic reviews and search PubMed“. It allows you to sign up through your library Proxy account and access PDFs for any medical journal that your library has available. If your university isn’t supported, email them, I believe they are really working hard to add new institutions. The key component for this app is the user can select which journals they want to receive regular updates from and easily access. Here’s a great review of the product.  For those using Android/non-Mac products I don’t think its available for any other platform than Apple (I only use Mac so I can’t confirm this).

Settings page for "Read"

Settings page for “Read”

Main interface used when reading articles

Main interface used when reading articles

Feedly: I also highly recommend this! and it syncs with GoogleReader which inexplicably is getting shut down. This program provides regular updates to any journal you wish to add to your list. The benefit to this approach is that it syncs well across platforms (both mobile and desktop) and it also houses all of your non-medical blogs and news sites. The difference between Feedly and QxMD is the latter offers a much easier route to read the PDF. Feedly simply provides you with the abstract then its up to you to figure out your own access method.

Screen Shot 2013-04-21 at 11.40.53 AM

Subscribe to a journal’s table of contents (TOC): Most journals allow you to provide your email so that every time a new volume is published, the TOC arrives in your inbox. This is how I started following journals though depending on the number of emails you receive (and the number of journals you follow), this process can easily overwhelm.

Example of "The Lancet" Table of Contents email

Example of “The Lancet” Table of Contents email

Subscribe to programs such as Journal Watch or InfoPOEMs (from Cdn Med Assoc): Essentially these organizations review the literature (typically 1-2 months behind) and send brief summaries of selected articles. This isn’t comprehensive and they’re not always free (e.g. Journal Watch) but it does help you find out about papers that maybe you wouldn’t have read. I use these methods then I download the article myself using my University library account. But it is a bit more labor intensive than Feedly or QxMD.

Follow an up to date medical blog. For those in emergency medicine/critical care, lifeinthefastlane.com is a must. The authors of this blog provide high quality, regular, up to date information about new publications that will interest EM physicians. Sign up to their LITFL review and they outline some of the newest journal articles out there. In addition, they link you up with all the most recent blog posts from around the EM world.

For those interested in medical education – I highly recommend a new blog “Medical Educator 2.0” that compiles medical education (and general education) related topics from sources around the world. Ali Jalali is a medical educator at the University of Ottawa (and happened to be a professor of mine in med school) and he puts together a very high quality site. If you subscribe then you’ll get regular emails when a new version/updates are posted.

Download each journal’s app: Great if you only read 1-2 journals but not sure how useful this is if you’re looking for regular updates from a broad range of journals. Here’s a list of journal apps for download.

Twitter: Either sign up and follow a journal’s twitter account (e.g. @EmergencyMedBMJ) or follow individuals that often retweet or post comments about new articles. This approach really maximizes the power of crowds and can make reviewing new articles much easier. On Twitter, you can also follow hasthtags like #meded and #FOAMed.

So those are a few strategies that I use. I welcome feedback and suggestions that I’ve missed. I’m happy to update this post with any ideas that you feel should be included.

Navigating the world of social media in clinical medicine

It’s great to see articles now about the impact and effects of social media in medicine especially in other specialities. This article titled “Social Media and Clinical Care” was just published in Circulation and deserves at least a brief review by any clinician who uses social media either to augment clinical care. It’s also encouraging to see this appear in the journal Circulation which has as a relatively high impact factor (around 14). Clearly the academic medical community and more importantly the general medical community is taking note of the importance of social media.

Whether you like it or hate it, I would argue we shouldn’t fight social media. It’s unlikely to disappear especially now with more than 1 billion smartphones on the planet.  Instead as clinicians we should use it in a way that helps us communicate with each other, with patients and ultimately improves care. That being said, social media does NOT equal good or better! (it can be ). We always strive to “do no harm” and social media in medicine should be no exception.

To borrow the Spiderman quote “with great power comes great responsibility“. The same applies to social media…in fact maybe I should try and coin my own modification “with great social media power comes great social media responsibility”! But as we increasginly engage in social media we must recognize it’s power…which is why we should continue to use it but also understand how it can be quite dangerous.

What this article does it outline the various ways that it can be used within clinical medicine. It also highlights the ethical challenges we face and provide some perspective using an ethical framework.  The great thing is that in the spirit of FOAM (free open access medicine) this article is free! Congratulations for Circulation for making this accessible to all.

Who should read this article?

  • Any clinician who has patients participating in social media as a source for medical advice
  • Any clinician who uses social media as a form of communication/education with other clinicians
  • Any clinician who engages with their patients through social media as a form of education
  • Any clinician looking for some good references of studies that evaluate the impact of social media within medicine/patients

Does this sound like all clinicians should read it? I would say unless you still think rotating tourniquets is the optimal method to treat heart failure, yes…you probably should at least give it a glance.

What I found interesting was the discussion about whether it’s appropriate to use specific patient cases on a blog. I haven’t taken up this practice, but I really do value reading other medical blogs when authors recount specific instances. It’s helpful to read these accounts – almost as if you’re speaking with a colleague about an interesting/challenging case…but now your colleague can be anyone in the world. Powerful stuff! But at the same time, I respect the issues of confidentiality that surround such discussions. What was interesting was the article quoted data that found

“medical educators…felt that writing a deidentified patient narrative using a respectful tone was never or rarely acceptable (61%)”

That is really quite high…61%! And impressively it was a “deidentified” patient described  using a “respectful tone”. I’m curious to know what others think but I personally don’t have a problem with it. I think it’s obviously better to have patient consent but what if the case was 2 years prior? Does that change anything? Pragmatically it would be hard to find that patient…and perhaps considerable learning can be achieved from the case. This is definitely a challenge for educators/clinicians in balancing the risks & benefits. More importantly, it doesn’t seem like our colleagues may support such actions!

The authors of this article outline some recommendations for physicians who have blogs/websites as well as those who engage in online social networks. None of these are revolutionary but they provide us with good reminders of how we can continue to uphold our commitment to improving patient care in an ethical manner.

Source: Chretien & Kind Circulation 2013

Source: Chretien & Kind Circulation 2013

 

Source: Chretien & Kind Circulation 2013

Source: Chretien & Kind Circulation 2013

 

 

Family presence during resuscitations…the debate continues

For those of us involved in acute care medicine, you’ve likely faced the question

“should we invite the family to be present during the resuscitation?”

More than likely you also have an opinion on the matter. In fact, as I’ve started to look at the literature, people have very strong opinions about this subject! For those with short attention spans…check out a recent New England Journal of Medicine article for further evdience! 

I’ll be candid – I support the practice of having families present for the resuscitation, or at least inviting them to be present. I understand some families will decline which is entirely their choice but importantly other families will find this important to be present.

The last time I invited a family to observe was in an ICU setting where we were in the process of resuscitating a young person who had suffered cardiac arrest. The patient was extremely unstable with episodes of CPR and increasing pressor requirements.  I knew the family was waiting in the family room so I handed over the role of team leader to another colleague and visited with the family. Before leaving, however, the entire team was made aware of the plan to have the family present. Everyone was in agreement with the plan. I invited all family members to be present though only 3 of 5 requested to observe. Before entering, I outlined that they would see their loved one with a “breathing tube” and that “CPR” may be in process. We had our most senior ICU nurse with the family throughout the resuscitation to explain exactly what was happening. Never once were they left alone, however, we did encourage if they wished to hold their loved ones hand. We had planned our equipment prior to allow for this. Unfortunately the patient died but the family expressed their gratitude to the entire team for their efforts. Furthermore, they thanked us for allowing them to be with the patient during the final moments of her life. I can’t speak to why the family chose to be present, but they expressed nothing but gratitude for the invitation.

Detractors will say that family presence may have hindered the teams performance and perhaps led to psychological harm to the patient’s family. I also can’t speculate on the long term consequences for observing this potentially traumatic event. However, our team unanimously decided it would be appropriate and we proceeded accordingly.

Importantly, our team had a short de-brief afterwards where any concerns, comments and opinions were heard. There was no disagreement among team members that what was done was appropriate.

I recalled this story after reading this week’s NEJM which published a pre-hospital trial which randomized family members to observation of CPR compared to standard practice. The primary outcome was the proportion of relatives with PTSD related symptoms. Impressively, those family members who observed the resuscitation had significantly lower frequency of PTSD related symptoms than those who did not witness the resuscitation. There was no affect on resuscitation characteristics, patient survival and none resulted in medicolegal claims.

In conclusion, the authors stated that:

“family presence during CPR was associated with positive results on psychological variables and did not interfere with medical efforts, increase stress in the health care team or medicolegal conflicts”

Some will argue that this study applies only to the pre-hospital setting since in-hospital situations are very different. In this study setting, many may have witnessed the actual collapse which differs from the hospital. So in the pre-hospital setting, maybe this is sufficient evidence to proceed with offering family presence? I can’t imagine there’s going to be another randomized trial any time soon. This is likely the best evidence we’ll get…at least out of hospital.

There is a vast array of highly opinionated individuals who have posted replies to this topic and I believe these warrant reading. Its amazing how strong the opinions are despite the lack of evidence. There have been several studies that have evaluated ED personnel opinion – these show equipoise…in one study it was 50.9% who supported family presence.

As many who are against the practice have pointed out, lack of support and communication during the resuscitation are detrimental and counterproductive. There must  be a designated individual who can provide perspective and explanation to the family. Furthermore that individual must recurrently reassess the emotional state of the family. While some feel this is a pandora box that should NEVER be opened, I would disagree. One of the editorialists for the NEJM article summaries the situation quite well:

“Part of our job as physicians is to help patients and families establish goals of care, process life-threatening events, and, at times, orchestrate the best death possible.”

 

What is most important as acute care clinicians is that we continue the discourse and encourage future study. There is clearly no definitive answer and to argue in one direction or the other without acknowledging the lack of evidence is ignorant. We have multiple surveys that report equipoise among clinicians followed by anecdotal reports of success with family observation.  Interestingly, several large guidelines have endorsed family presence including those from the AHA.

Based on this emerging evidence, it certainly doesn’t discourage me from further pursuing family presence. I will continue to invite families into the resuscitation room, however, before this occurs I will ensure the following:

  1. Discuss with the team so that everyone is aware that the family will be entering 
  2. Offer to the family the opportunity to be present
  3. Prepare the family for what they may see and that the resuscitation may be stopped during their present
  4. Ensure there is a well experience clinician (either RN or MD) with the family throughout the resuscitation
  5. Debrief the resuscitation team afterwards

 

What should be encouraged is similar situations be incorporated within simulation training. Before we fully integrate family presence, just like any other high-risk procedure, we should practice it and be competent. The entire team should be aware and understand the implications.

For those wishing to read more, I highly recommend a critical review of the literature published in 2005. While it’s a bit older, it is quite helpful! At that time there was little evidence to support many of the concerns expressed by those do not support family presence…

 

A little bit more about the benefits of In-situ simulation. It’s time we practice where we work

In-situ simulation has become increasingly popular and just recently there’s some evidence that it’s achieving the holy grail of simulation…simulation resulting in improved patient-centered outcomes. Intuitively it makes sense that more practice will make us better and probably practice within the exact place that we work, will be good too! Look at an Olympic downhill skier…they train several days in advance of their race on the exact same course as the race. Why? So that they can gain a better understanding about where every difficult turn is located or how they should navigate through a particularly challenging section. I mean, for such a high risk setting, why wouldn’t you practice where you work? Well I think the same can extend to resuscitation medicine. We should practice where we work! And at the very least, it won’t hurt us…and it will probably help. And maybe, just maybe it will benefit our patients too. 

This study was just published in Resuscitation. It’s a prospective study that implemented in-situ simulation in a pediatric setting with their emergency response team and they studied several clinical outcomes in a pre-post study design.

Their results included that after in-situ simulation, deteriorating patients were recognised more promptly and more rapidly escalated to intensive care (median time 10.5/5 h, p = 0.024). Furthermore there were additional trends (though not significant) towards decreased morbidity & mortality – which warrants further investigation.

The authors also note some key features of their team training & human factors considerations that may have contributed to the success of this intervention. Each of these 5 factors are EXTREMELY important for successful in-situ simulation:

(1) Regular training for all team members (4–10 times/year depending on rotation).

(2) Training in real clinical roles in real clinical environment.

(3) Key decision makers (paediatric registrars and charge/deputy charge nurses) from all wards participate in team and team training, building capacity to deal with evolving critical illness on the wards, even if the team as such is not called.

(4) Senior medical and nursing staff from many departments are team trainers – enabling trainers to address issues identified in clinical practice during team training and to facilitate acceptance of team and team training across traditional departmental boundaries

(5) Senior clinical and managerial staff support team and team training (willingness to respond early to calls from team; protected training time).

Finally, I’ve included the study abstract if you’re interested.

Regular in situ simulation training of paediatric medical emergency team improves hospital response to deteriorating patients. U. Theilen et al.  vol 84 (2):218-222

Aim of the study

The introduction of a paediatric Medical Emergency Team (pMET) was accompanied by integration of weekly in situ simulation team training into routine clinical practice. On a rotational basis, all key ward staff participated in team training, which focused on recognition of the deteriorating child, teamwork and early consultant review of patients with evolving critical illness. This study aimed to evaluate the impact of regular team training on the hospital response to deteriorating in-patients and subsequent patient outcome.

Methods

Prospective cohort study of all deteriorating in-patients of a tertiary paediatric hospital requiring admission to paediatric intensive care (PICU) the year before, and after, the introduction of pMET and concurrent team training.

Results

Deteriorating patients were: recognised more promptly (before/after pMET: median time 4/1.5 h, p < 0.001), more often reviewed by consultants (45%/76%, p = 0.004), more often transferred to high dependency care (18%/37%, p = 0.021) and more rapidly escalated to intensive care (median time 10.5/5 h, p = 0.024). These improved responses by ward staff extended beyond direct involvement of pMET.

There was a trend towards fewer PICU admissions, reduced level of sickness at the time of PICU admission, reduced length of PICU stay and reduced PICU mortality. Introduction of pMET coincided with significantly reduced hospital mortality (p < 0.001).

Conclusions

These results indicate that lessons learnt by ward staff during regular in situ team training led to significantly improved recognition and management of deteriorating in-patients with evolving critical illness. Integration of in situ simulation team training in clinical care has potential applications beyond paediatrics.

Cricothyroidotomy – considerations for teaching & simulation

Earlier this week I posted about the integration of a cric task-trainer at ARHT. I’ve decided to follow this up with some general evidence about cricothyroidotomy training.

The data regarding technique selection for cricothyroidotomy exists primarily in the context of simulation. It would be impossible to run a trial to compare techniques in real patients given the rarity of the scenario. In general, there are two types of techniques: 1) open or surgical cricothyroidotomy 2) percutaneous or needle cricothyroidotomy. I tend to favor an open technique (and maybe with a bougie)  given the simplicity but there is some evidence to support the needle method. There is a nice  Below is a brief outline of some evidence-based considerations for anyone involved in training clinicians for cric performance.

Needle vs. Open

  • Randomized trial of emergency physicians performing surgical and percutaneous cricothyroidotomy on cadavers. Time to first ventilation was significantly longer using the surgical technique (108 seconds vs. 136 seconds) while there were significantly more injuries to surrounding structures using the open technique (6 thyroid vessel injuries vs. none)
  • Authors concluded results tend to favor percutaneous technique
  • I’m quite surprised that time was shorter with the percutaneous technique – interesting result!

Alternative techniques

Time to Completion 

  • Highly dependent on when the timer starts but regardless everyone agrees time is important! And less is more!
  • 40 seconds was achievable in one study – time to skin palpation to first ventilation when all equipment was laid out
  • 95 seconds (mean) was recorded in another study as time from first grasping cric equipment to first ventilation

Number of times to achieve competence

  • Debatable whether experience = competence
  • Performance times plateau after 4 attempts (using a manikin)
  • Very little evidence to support number of times needed especially since all evidence is manikins or cadavers

Room for improvement as an inter-disciplinary approach

  • Several studies show that often it’s the surgeon performing cricothyroidotomies in emergent settings (article 1, article 2
  • This has important training implications – we should be training as a trauma team and incorporating the trauma team during in-situ simulation
  • EM teachers & educators must also be aware of this issue and work with surgeons so that they understand cricothyroidotomy is completely within the scope of practice for EM physicians (or anyone who performs RSI)

Some High Quality Learning (FOAMed)