Open Access Open Badges Research article

Enhancing paramedics procedural skills using a cadaveric model

David Lim1*, Stephen Bartlett1, Peter Horrocks1, Courtenay Grant-Wakefield1, Jodie Kelly2 and Vivienne Tippett1

Author Affiliations

1 School of Clinical Sciences, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia

2 IHBI Medical Engineering Research Facility, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia

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BMC Medical Education 2014, 14:138  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-14-138

Published: 8 July 2014



Paramedic education has evolved in recent times from vocational post-employment to tertiary pre-employment supplemented by clinical placement. Simulation is advocated as a means of transferring learned skills to clinical practice. Sole reliance of simulation learning using mannequin-based models may not be sufficient to prepare students for variance in human anatomy. In 2012, we trialled the use of fresh frozen human cadavers to supplement undergraduate paramedic procedural skill training. The purpose of this study is to evaluate whether cadaveric training is an effective adjunct to mannequin simulation and clinical placement.


A multi-method approach was adopted. The first step involved a Delphi methodology to formulate and validate the evaluation instrument. The instrument comprised of knowledge-based MCQs, Likert for self-evaluation of procedural skills and behaviours, and open answer. The second step involved a pre-post evaluation of the 2013 cadaveric training.


One hundred and fourteen students attended the workshop and 96 evaluations were included in the analysis, representing a return rate of 84%. There was statistically significant improved anatomical knowledge after the workshop. Students’ self-rated confidence in performing procedural skills on real patients improved significantly after the workshop: inserting laryngeal mask (MD 0.667), oropharyngeal (MD 0.198) and nasopharyngeal (MD 0.600) airways, performing Bag-Valve-Mask (MD 0.379), double (MD 0.344) and triple (MD 0.326,) airway manoeuvre, doing 12-lead electrocardiography (MD 0.729), using laryngoscope (MD 0.726), using Magill® forceps to remove foreign body (MD 0.632), attempting thoracocentesis (MD 1.240), and putting on a traction splint (MD 0.865). The students commented that the workshop provided context to their theoretical knowledge and that they gained an appreciation of the differences in normal tissue variation. Following engagement in/ completion of the workshop, students were more aware of their own clinical and non-clinical competencies.


The paramedic profession has evolved beyond patient transport with minimal intervention to providing comprehensive both emergency and non-emergency medical care. With limited availability of clinical placements for undergraduate paramedic training, there is an increasing demand on universities to provide suitable alternatives. Our findings suggested that cadaveric training using fresh frozen cadavers provides an effective adjunct to simulated learning and clinical placements.