The Royal College of Anaesthetists (RCOA) stipulates that anaesthetists should be able to use advanced/novel airway management techniques. The RCOA-accredited annual Challenging Airway Course in Northern Ireland is a staple of the calendar, providing an opportunity for all those involved in airway management to gain, refresh and replenish skills. Having already been cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic, there was a strong appetite, particularly within the trainee body, that it should be staged in some form this year.
The aim of the study was to deliver a high-quality course that outlined the theory behind airway management, without loss of the hands-on aspects of equipment/techniques, to a large candidate group in a COVID-19 safe environment.
Alteration of the face-to-face course to run in a hybrid multi-site format with both online components and practical workstations.
The course was delivered simultaneously in real time across the multiple deanery teaching hospitals. There was a central hub from which the course lead could synchronize timings/broadcast recorded material. As part of contingency plans for any unanticipated technical difficulties, lectures were pre-recorded and played for candidates on the day. These were punctuated with four practical workstations that mandated two delegates per station. Additionally, some content was recorded for viewing online as pre-course material and new simulation videos of a failed intubation drill and the subsequent debrief were also created. For some unable to attend site locations, a fully virtual experience was also an option. These modifications allowed us to: maximize attendance without breaching social distancing guidelines; retain the hands-on aspect of using equipment/techniques and also maintain an excellent faculty to candidate ratio to allow ample time for practising/asking questions. The pre-course material also empowered the candidates to feel better prepared for the day. Post-course anonymous feedback was completed by the vast majority of delegates and was overwhelmingly positive. Pre-course material, facilities, content, lectures, simulations and workshops were rated highly. The use of airway exchange catheters was mentioned as the introduction of a new skill for many delegates. Apart from one candidate, no one had attended any RCOA-accredited airway events in the preceding year but 100% of the candidates would recommend this course to their peers. Amidst challenging times, we successfully restyled an established and respected course. The novel hybrid multi-site format allowed a larger number of candidates to network face-to-face and gain knowledge/practical skills within a COVID-safe environment. Until such times as ‘normality’ and perhaps beyond, this may be a new formula for learning.