Physician in-field observation of prehospital advanced life support personnel: A statewide evaluation

Daniel W. Spaite, Terence D. Valenzuela, Harvey W. Meislin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Study Hypothesis: Direct physician observation of advanced life support (ALS) personnel is rare in a demographically diverse state. Study Population: Twenty ALS agencies from throughout Arizona. Methods: A board-certified emergency physician performed on-site interviews with the emergency medical services (EMS) supervisor of each agency to approximate the number of days per year that physicians observe ALS personnel in the field. Results: Only 11 agencies (55%) reported that physicians ever observed ALS personnel. Among all agencies, an estimated total of 84 observer-days occurred per year. The agencies staffed a total of 86 ALS units, resulting in an estimated 0.98 observer-days/unit/year (84/86). On the average, it took 3.4 ALS personnel to staff a given unit over time and the probability that an ALS provider would be on a unit on any given day was 0.29 (1/3.4). The probability of a given provider being observed during one year was approximately 0.29 (0.98 x 0.29). Thus, on the average, an ALS provider would be observed by a physician approximately once every 3.5 years (1/0.29). Among urban agencies, the “average” ALS provider would be observed once every 2.9 years. This compared to a likelihood of in-field observation of only once every 6.7 years for non-urban providers (p =.036). Conclusions: The skills of ALS providers in Arizona are observed by a physician in the field very infrequently. Although an uncommon occurrence in urban agencies, observation of non-urban ALS personnel occurs even less frequently. In addition, nearly one-half of the agencies surveyed never had a physician-observer. Although a variety of skills evaluation methods exist, it remains unclear whether any method is as useful as direct observation. Future investigations are needed to evaluate whether in-field physician observation impacts skills, patient care, or outcome in EMS systems. Prehospital and Disaster Medicine, 1993:8(4):299-302.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)299-302
Number of pages4
JournalPrehospital and Disaster Medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1993


  • EMS
  • EMS systems
  • advanced life support
  • non-urban
  • performance evaluation
  • physician
  • physician-observer
  • urban

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine
  • Emergency


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