BACKGROUND: Pediatrics residents have few opportunities to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Enhancing the quality of CPR is a key factor to improving outcomes for cardiopulmonary arrest in children and requires effective training strategies. OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the effectiveness of a simulation-based intervention to reduce first-year pediatrics residents' time for 3 critical actions in CPR: (1) call for help, (2) initiate bag-mask ventilation, and (3) initiate chest compressions. METHODS: A prospective study involving 31 first-year pediatrics residents at a children's hospital assigned to an early or late (control) intervention group. Residents underwent baseline assessment followed by repeat evaluations at 3 and 6 months. Time to critical actions was scored by video review. A 90-minute educational intervention focused on skill practice was conducted following baseline evaluation for the early-intervention group and following 3-month evaluation for the late-intervention group. Primary outcome was change in time to initiating the 3 critical actions. Change in time was analyzed by comparison of Kaplan-Meier curves, using the log-rank test. A 10% sample was timed by a second rater. Agreement was assessed using intraclass correlation (ICC). RESULTS: There was a statistically significant reduction in time for all 3 critical actions between baseline and 3-month evaluation in the early intervention group; this was not observed in the late (control) group. Rater agreement was excellent (ICC >/= 0.99). CONCLUSIONS: A simulation-based educational intervention significantly reduced time to initiation of CPR for first-year pediatrics residents. Simulation training facilitated acquisition of critical CPR skills that have the potential to impact patient outcome.