Logo for University of Iowa Health Care This logo represents the University of Iowa Health Care

UI ECMO training course earns international endorsement; second in the US

Date: Wednesday, December 20, 2023

The University of Iowa’s educational course in extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) has been endorsed by the Extracorporeal Life Support Organization (ELSO). Iowa is one of only two institutions in the U.S. and 19 worldwide to earn this distinction, cementing the university’s place as an international leader in the advanced life support technology. 

We feel confident in saying that we're providing very high-level education because our education meets ELSO's standards of ECMO education,” says Dan Dietzel, RN, BSN, CCRN, E-AEC, a full-time ECMO specialist who serves as the program’s clinical practice leader. “I’m hopeful that this will become an international destination for ECMO training.” 

In 2022, the program earned the ELSO’s Award for Excellence in Life Support—Platinum Level for reaching the highest levels of performance, innovation, satisfaction, and quality. The endorsement process required a lengthy application and on-site review by ELSO representatives. The process gave Iowa’s ECMO education team the chance to make a stand-out program even better. 

“We created new lectures and new content to meet each of 106 total objectives from a panel of experts,” Dietzel says. “We revamped the simulation portion to make sure that we're covering all specialties because the course is intended for everybody.”

The ECMO team poses for a group photo upon receiving their Platinum level distinction.
Medical learners practice ECMO skills on a simulation patient model.

The biannual training course, first offered in 2009, brings together didactic learning and leading-edge simulations to train health care providers of any discipline who may provide care to patients on ECMO.  

What’s really important about our program is that not only do we have the didactic portion, but we also have hands-on opportunities,” says Kristina Rudolph, RN, BSN, E-AEC, nurse coordinator and ECMO program manager. “We structured it in a manner where we take what we've learned in the morning in didactic sessions and apply it in the afternoon, so it really comes full circle.” 

The team hopes that this endorsement will encourage providers from across the Midwest and beyond to come to Iowa to acquire this highly technical lifesaving skill. 

“While it's still a low-volume, high-risk therapy, it's becoming more common,” Dietzel says. “People that come to our training course are guaranteed high-quality information, and that translates to excellent patient care." 

“I'm extremely ecstatic,” Rudolph says. “It's not about a simple endorsement. We’re this small little program of 30 people out of this great big hospital. To go through all this work and have an organization of such great stature give us the stamp of approval—I couldn't be prouder to be part of this program and teach people what we do.” 


Just a few months before Keagen Kopp walked across the Fairfield High School stage to receive his high school diploma, his mother, Molly Kopp, wondered whether her son would even live to see that day. A team of experts—pediatric critical care, ECMO, thoracic transplant, and others—open up about the incredible journey to save a severely injured teen. (Medicine Iowa, Fall 2023)