AMA Announces New Effort to Standardize Training in BP Measurement

Megan Brooks

May 27, 2021

The American Medical Association (AMA) has launched a new effort aimed at ensuring future physicians and healthcare professionals receive appropriate training on how to consistently take accurate blood pressure (BP) measurements.

"We know that inaccurate blood pressure measurements are linked to errors in diagnosing and treating high blood pressure, and may lead to more adverse outcomes, yet medical and health profession students are not currently receiving consistent training in BP measurement," AMA President Susan R. Bailey, MD, said in a statement.

"The AMA's new series of online education modules addresses the current lack of a standardized curriculum on evidence-based blood pressure measurement techniques offered at healthcare schools nationwide, including medical, nursing, physician assistant, medical assistant, and pharmacy," Bailey said.

"We believe this step is critical given that the percentage of American adults who have their blood pressure under control is significantly declining," she added.

More than 120 million adults in the United States have high BP and obtaining an accurate BP measurement is an important step to improve hypertension, the AMA said.

Measuring BP happens daily in clinical practice and BP guidelines recommend periodic re-training. However, research has shown that student training in BP measurement is often brief, with varying training models among healthcare schools, the AMA said.  

In addition, some schools do not provide any training on self-measured blood pressure (SMBP), which is an important part of care for hypertensive patients, they point out.  

Other research has shown a decline in students' BP measurement skills in the months following initial training, yet many healthcare schools do not currently offer a BP measurement refresher course.

To help address gaps in training, the AMA has developed Student BP Measurement Essentials, a series of three online modules, as follows.

  • BP Measurement Essentials: Student Edition — Taken during initial clinical skills (vital signs) training, this module helps students understand the importance of accurate BP measurement, how to properly prepare and position a patient for BP measurement, and how to perform BP measurements using a variety of devices, as well as learn about SMBP.

  • SMBP Essentials: Student Edition — Taken later in school once students become more familiar with foundational BP care, this module provides students with a deeper understanding of SMBP, including how to choose the proper equipment, perform SMBP measurements accurately, and identify resources to help patients measure their own BP correctly.

  • BP Measurement Refresher: Student Edition — This module is designed to be taken before students begin clinical experiences and repeated as needed during those experiences. It provides students with a refresher on preparing and positioning a patient for BP measurement and performing BP measurements using different devices.

The three modules are available for free at AMA Ed Hub.

To expedite adoption of the BP measurement training series, the AMA is collaborating with five medical schools, most of which serve a student body where one or more groups of students have been historically under-represented in medicine.

The schools are the Alabama College of Osteopathic Medicine, Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California, Morehouse School of Medicine, University of California (UC) Davis School of Medicine, and University of North Carolina School of Medicine.

Participating schools will incorporate the modules into their fall 2021 curriculum, and the AMA hopes to have the modules in all US healthcare schools in 2022.

"This effort is part of AMA's ongoing commitment to drive the future of medicine by reimagining medical education, training, and lifelong learning — ensuring medical students are equipped to provide care in the rapidly evolving healthcare environment given the increased use of telehealth and home blood pressure monitoring," Bailey said.

In 2019, the AMA and American Heart Association codeveloped an e-learning module, Achieving Accuracy: BP Measurement, to provide healthcare professionals with guideline-recommended training on proper BP measurement. 

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