Train at Scotland’s only respiratory adult ECMO centre.

ECMO is a highly complex supportive therapy used for critically ill patients where other forms of heart or lung support have failed.

In this course, you’ll develop the skills, knowledge and practical experience you need to safely manage adults receiving respiratory ECMO treatment.

This is a highly skilled and technically complex role, and we’ll prepare you for it by combining:

  • online and in-person teaching
  • in-situ simulation, and
  • a mentored preceptorship, providing you with direct patient contact.

You’ll have extensive hands-on, practical training and support in using, maintaining and troubleshooting ECMO circuits.

You’ll learn at Scotland’s only officially commissioned respiratory adult ECMO centre, from practising clinicians and healthcare practitioners who specialise in ECMO management.

Who can join this ECMO course?

Our ECMO course is for medical staff, nursing staff at Band 5 and above, and other Allied Health Professionals who are or plan to be involved in the support of critically ill patients on respiratory ECMO.

What you’ll study

You’ll gain a detailed understanding of the challenges involved with respiratory ECMO.

While we do cover some aspects of cardiac ECMO, this course focuses primarily on respiratory ECMO.

As well as the practical, you’ll cover the vital theoretical aspects of ECMO treatment. This includes:

  • related respiratory and cardiovascular anatomy and physiology 
  • understanding of underlying disease processes
  • changes introduced by an extracorporeal circuit. 

You’ll study the following:

  • Respiratory pathophysiology 
  • Oxygen transportation 
  • Cardiovascular pathophysiology 
  • Vascular anatomy
  • Coagulation and anticoagulation  
  • ECMO cannulation techniques 
  • Components of an extracorporeal circuit 
  • Oxygenator membrane physiology 
  • Circuit management and malfunctions 
  • Critical analysis of normal and abnormal findings 
  • ECMO patient assessment 
  • ECMO pharmacology  
  • Blood product usage
  • Correction of abnormal physiology 
  • Troubleshooting common ECMO complications
  • Practical skills for emergency management 
  • Teamwork in emergency management 
  • Situational awareness and other non-technical skills

By the end of this course, you’ll be able to...

  • Identify and explain the components of an extracorporeal circuit.
  • Carry out the daily management and troubleshooting of patients on extracorporeal circuits.
  • Recognise and safely manage patient complications and emergency situations relating to ECMO.
  • Distinguish between normal and deviations from normal when interpreting patient physiology and the circuit function.
  • Critically analyse deviations from normal while interpreting patient physiology and the circuit function during patient management.
  • Support, maintain and develop the knowledge, skills and experience of your team by using high-fidelity simulation to be prepared for clinical emergencies.
  • Understand and use non-technical skills in a complex medical environment.

How you’ll study

Blended learning

Our ECMO course is delivered flexibly via blended learning. You’ll learn via a mix of online learning and on-campus teaching at our Foresterhill Health Campus in Aberdeen.

This course is taught at Masters level.

Online learning

Your online teaching is delivered through MyAberdeen, our online Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). It holds all the materials, tools and support you’ll need in your online studies. Take a look around MyAberdeen.

You can access your learning materials on computer, smartphone and laptop, 24 hours a day. You’ll find a range of resources at your fingertips, including:

  • video lectures to stream or download
  • reading materials
  • discussion boards with colleagues and tutors
  • the online resources of our award-winning Sir Duncan Rice Library.

In-person learning

You’ll learn mainly within the Critical Care Unit at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary and at the Suttie Centre. Both are part of our Foresterhill Health Campus.

Foresterhill is one of the largest clinical complexes in Europe. It’s home to one of the leading medical schools in the UK, a large teaching hospital, maternity and children’s hospitals, and the Rowett Institute. Find out about our Health Campus.

Your in-person learning will include:

  • tutorials
  • classroom-based teaching
  • in-situ simulation, and
  • work-based learning.

In this course, there’s a significant focus on the practical aspects of ECMO management. You’ll have hands-on experience in circuit management, with one-to-one demonstration and practice.

And you’ll take part in in-situ simulations, so you have the chance to apply your new skills and knowledge in a safe and controlled environment.


You’ll also undertake a 50-hour mentored preceptorship. This is a period of structured training and support designed to guide you from student to autonomous professional.

Your preceptorship will give you direct patient contact and allow you to further develop your knowledge and skills. It will take place in the Critical Care Unit at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, unless your local work area can provide the required experience and support.

Your tutors

You’ll learn from practising clinicians and healthcare practitioners who have considerable experience in the management and delivery of ECMO.

All your tutors are involved in the ELSO Platinum Award accredited programme within Aberdeen.

You’ll also learn from staff who have gained experience in ECMO fellowships in centres across the UK and Australia.

Your teaching team

Where this will take you


This specialist ECMO course can open up career opportunities across a range of roles in health care.


You’ll expand your knowledge and skills, helping you move up a band and progress to a specialist role without having to move into management.

Doctors (STs)

You’ll progress to a higher level in patient management and gain hands-on experience with ECMO. Successful completion of the course will enhance your CV and help you to stand out from other candidates when applying for posts.


You’ll expand your expertise in an area of interest and have the unique opportunity to train at a Platinum ECMO Centre via the No. 2 Medical School in the UK (Guardian University Guide 2023).

Free career support

Access our free careers service while you study.

  • 1:1 appointments
  • CV checks
  • Interview prep
  • Job opportunities

See how our careers service can help you.

Entry requirements

To apply for this course, you need to be a registered healthcare professional working in critical care.

You must:

  • have completed Step 3 competencies, or an equivalent critical care education programme
  • be required to develop your practice in the care of patients on ECMO
  • if you are a nurse, be at Band 5 or above
  • if you are a doctor, be a consultant, at staff grade, or specialist trainee level (ST5 and above)
  • have the support of your line manager, and
  • have a clinical supervisor who is experienced in the care of ECMO patients.

Apply for this course

Start date
23 January 2023
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