Training in aspiration abortion care: An observational cohort study of achieving procedural competence. Academic Article uri icon


  • Studies in multiple countries have found that the provision of aspiration abortion care by trained nurses, midwives, and other front-line health care workers is safe and acceptable to women. In the United States, most state abortion laws restrict the provision of abortion to physicians; nurse practitioners, nurse-midwives, and physician assistants, can legally perform medication abortion in only twelve states and aspiration abortion in five. Expansion of abortion care by these providers, consistent with their scopes of practice, could help alleviate the increasing difficulty of accessing abortion care in many states.This study used a competency-based training model to teach advanced practice clinicians to perform vacuum aspiration for the abortion care. Previous research reporting on the training of providers other than physicians primarily focused on numbers of procedures performed, without assessment of skill competency or clinician confidence.In this prospective, observational cohort study, advanced practice clinician trainees were recruited from 23 clinical sites across six partner organizations. Trainees participated in a standardized, competency-based didactic and clinical training program in uterine aspiration for first-trimester abortion.Trainee clinicians needed to be employed by one of the six partner organizations and have an intention to remain in clinical practice following training.California-licensed advanced practice clinicians were eligible to participate in the training if they had at least 12 months of clinical experience, including at least three months of medication abortion provision, and certification in Basic Life Support.A standardized, competency-based training program consisting of both didactic and clinical training in uterine aspiration for first-trimester abortion was completed by 46 advanced practice clinician participants. Outcomes related to procedural safety and to the learning process were measured between August 2007 and December 2013, and compared to those of resident physician trainees.Essentially identical odds of complications occurring from advanced practice clinician-performed procedures were not significantly different than the odds of complications occurring from resident-performed procedures (OR: 0.99; CI: 0.46-2.02; p > 0.05) after controlling for patient sociodemographic and medical history. The number of training days to foundational competence ranged from six to 10, and the number of procedures to competence for those who completed training ranged from 40 to 56 (median = 42.5).A standardized, competency-based trainingprogram can prepare advanced practice clinicians to safely provide first-trimester aspiration abortions. Access to safe abortion care can be enhanced by increasing the number of providers from cadres of clinicians other than physicians.Copyright © 2018 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

publication date

  • December 2018