Clinicians who care for patients with severe heart and lung failure receiving ECMO now have access to multiple resources from the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses, including specialized training and validation of their ECMO knowledge.

The use of ECMO has grown tremendously over the last few years, and was employed frequently in the COVID-19 pandemic, due to the increase in critically ill patients whose lungs are unable to adequately oxygenate their body, even with supplemental oxygen. The complex therapy mechanically oxygenates their blood while their lungs heal. 

“This intricate mode of life support requires specialized training and validation of expertise to implement safely and effectively,” said Rachel Sterling, acute care nurse practitioner at the Methodist Heart and Lung Institute ECMO Program. “Caring for patients on ECMO involves understanding their unique clinical needs and how using the device affects their physiology. Nurses should be celebrated for expanding their knowledge and education, along with continuing to push the limits of what we, as nurses, can do.” 

The ECMO Course

Among the new resources is an online course presented by AACN and The Institute for Extracorporeal Life Support. In The ECMO Course, clinicians gain the knowledge to effectively and confidently manage various aspects of ECMO to provide care for critically ill patients with severe heart and lung failure.

Upon completing the course, nurses and advanced practice providers can earn up to eight continuing education (CE) hours of learning while perfusionists and respiratory therapists earn up to 10 CE hours of learning. It’s available for purchase by individuals for self-study or by institutions for use as part of their staff education. 

ECMO Micro-Credential

AACN has also developed an Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) Micro-Credential for clinicians to validate their specialty knowledge of ECMO therapy. A micro-credential is different from a specialty certification in that it validates a focused subset of specialized knowledge, skills or competencies. Upon completion, a micro-credential can be added to a resume, CV and/or online profile.

Applicants – with a current, unencumbered US healthcare professional license – earn their ECMO micro-credential by successfully completing an exam that validates their knowledge of nursing care delivery for patients receiving ECMO therapy. The exam consists of 38 items randomly selected from a bank of questions and requires 28 correct items for a passing score. The fee is $35 for AACN members and $50 for non-members.  

ECMO Clinical Resources

AACN has developed a repository of ECMO-related clinical resources filled with evidence-based research, webinars, podcasts, books, as well as insights from ECMO clinicians.