What Is ACLS Certification and Who Needs It?

Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support

Senior Man Having Stroke, Heart Attack. Getty Images, Peter Dazeley

ACLS, or Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support, is a classroom course for healthcare providers that covers how medical professionals should respond to patients who’ve just experienced cardiac arrest. The course also covers medical team dynamics and communication, according to the American Heart Association, a leading provider of ACLS certification.

Who Needs ACLS Certification?

Healthcare providers who oversee or manage cardiovascular emergencies are typically the medical professionals who receive ACLS certification.

Emergency response or emergency medicine professionals may obtain such training as well as workers in intensive and critical care units, the AHA states.

What’s Covered in the Course?

ACLS training, which covers a number of invasive procedures, differs from Basic Life Support training in that it is designed for advanced medical professionals, while almost all health care professionals receive BLS training. The AHA-approved course in ACLS certification includes training on key changes in advanced cardiovascular life support. The course also covers BLS skills such as chest compressions, use of bag-mask devices and early recognition and management of respiratory arrest, cardiac arrest and peri-arrest conditions such as symptomatic bradycardia, according to the AHA. Other topics covered include airway management, resuscitation team dynamics, and pharmacology in addition to management of acute coronary syndromes and stroke.

 

What Are ACLS Courses Like?

Courses are instructor-led and include workbooks, demonstrations, and interactive training. They feature small and large group sessions, learning stations and presentations of case-based scenarios. They’re designed to allow participants to engage in hands-on learning to help them achieve proficiency in the techniques used.

The course takes from 10 to 12 hours for health care workers pursuing ACLS certification for the first time. Medical professionals who are renewing their certification typically require six hours of class time. The cost of the course and the materials needed vary by training center or instructor.

The American Heart Association offers two ACLS-certification course formats, HeartCode ACLS Part 1 and ACLS for Experienced Providers. The former is an online instructional program that allows trainees to work at their own pace while they serve patients in virtual healthcare settings, the AHA states. The program uses eSimulation technology. The latter course aims to better outcomes in complicated cardiovascular, respiratory and related emergencies by augmenting the basic ACLS standards. Both analytical thinking and decision-making methods are emphasized in the ACLS EP course. Physicians, pharmacists, nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and emergency medical services personnel can receive continuing education accreditation related to ACLS training.

How to Receive Certification

Individuals who demonstrate competency in the skills learned in class and pass a series of tests at the end of their ACLS course, including a written exam and assessments in CPR, bag-mask ventilation skills, and Megacode, generally receive an ACLS course completion card.

The card, and hence the certification, lasts for two years, according to the AHA. The special healthcare training section of the AHA website includes an exhaustive list of information about how health care providers can become ACLS-certified.

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