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ACLS vs BLS: What is the Difference?

Cardiac emergencies require immediate action and proper techniques to save a life. Both BLS and ACLS certifications give people the skills to respond efficiently and effectively in these critical situations.  

But when it comes to ACLS versus BLS, how do you know which training is right for you? Here are the main differences between ACLS certification vs BLS certification’s scope and complexity.  

What is BLS? 

BLS, or Basic Life Support, offers foundational training in life-saving procedures during cardiac arrest or respiratory emergencies. Although it is designed for healthcare providers, it is available to anyone who wants to learn life-saving techniques. BLS training covers adult, child, and infant CPR, AED, and choking. 

What Does BLS Cover? 

BLS training is designed to be easy to learn and remember. Those who take the course learn how to be prepared and take immediate action during cardiac arrest or respiratory emergencies. BLS certification courses cover:  

  • CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation): Learn about proper hand placement and compression for adult, child, and infant CPR techniques. You’ll also learn about recognizing heart attack signs and symptoms, and how to successfully collaborate with 911 and EMS.
  • Two Rescuer: Learn proper techniques for performing chest compressions while a second rescuer uses AED pads to open the airways. This involves understanding when to switch positions when necessary.
  • AED (Automated External Defibrillator): Learn about the correct adult and pediatric placement and operation of an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) during certain types of cardiac arrest. Professionals also learn public access defibrillation medical legal aspects.  
  • Choking (Heimlich Maneuver): Learn proper techniques for adult, child, and infant foreign body airway obstruction (FBAO). This includes the Heimlich Maneuver for conscious individuals and what to do when someone is unconscious with FBAO.  

What is ACLS? 

ACLS, or Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support, builds on the foundation of BLS techniques with more advanced interventions like medication, intubation, and ECG readings. ACLS may also be referred to as ALS, or Advanced Life Support.  

ACLS training is designed for healthcare professionals like doctors, nurses, and paramedics who encounter life-threatening cardiovascular emergencies as part of their jobs.  

What Does ACLS Cover? 

ACLS training is more complex and covers advanced procedures intended for medical providers. Those who take the course learn proper medical protocols beyond basic CPR and operating AEDs an everyday person could use.  

ACLS certification courses cover:  

  • Cardiac arrest recognition and management: Learn steps to respond to cardiac arrest, including assessing patient condition, initiating CPR, identifying electrocardiogram (ECG) readings, and using AEDs.  
  • Advanced airway management: Learn skills and techniques needed for endotracheal intubation to help open the airway during an emergency. It also includes how to maintain oxygenation and ventilation during resuscitation. 
  • Medication administration: Learn the proper medication indications and dosages for specific cardiac emergencies, including epinephrine, amiodarone, and vasopressin. 
  • ACLS algorithms: Learn step-by-step protocols for responding to various cardiac rhythms, including ventricular fibrillation, bradycardia, asystole, and pulseless ventricular tachycardia. 

What is the Difference Between BLS and ACLS Certification? 

BLS certifications offer basic life support interventions, while ACLS offers more advanced cardiovascular life support needed in healthcare settings. Anyone in a healthcare setting should have a BLS certification, but BLS training is available to anyone who wants to learn more about CPR, AED usage, and choking interventions. ACLS training is more complex and reserved for healthcare professionals who need additional in-depth training on life-saving cardiovascular techniques and protocols.  

BLS certification is also available online or in a classroom setting, while ACLS training is typically offered in a classroom or hybrid setting. In addition, BLS certification is a prerequisite for ACLS training.  

ACLS vs. BLS Training: Which is Right for You? 

Instructor demonstrates CPR on mannequin at BLS training course for healthcare providers.

If your job requires a BLS or CPR Certification card, BLS training is designed to help you meet CPR certification requirements for your job or school. Anyone can take BLS training, and it is ideal for a wide array of healthcare professionals and jobs who may need life-saving CPR, AED, and FBAO training, including: 

  • Professional rescuers 
  • Healthcare providers like doctors and nurses 
  • Emergency response teams 
  • Safety personnel 
  • Police 
  • Ambulance 
  • Athletic trainers 
  • Airline employees 
  • Lifeguards  

You must already hold a BLS certification to take ACLS training. If you are a healthcare provider who encounters complex medical emergencies, ACLS training is designed to teach you more life-saving techniques that build on BLS training. Healthcare professionals who should complete ACLS certification include:  

  • Doctors 
  • Nurses 
  • Nurse practitioners  
  • Physician assistants 
  • Nurse Aids 
  • Professional caregivers 
  • Anesthesiologists 
  • Paramedics 
  • Respiratory therapists  

Where Can You Sign Up for ACLS and BLS Training? 

The American AEDCPR Association offers classes to help you quickly complete a BLS certification that is AHA, ECC, ILCOR, and OSHA compliant. Training is available through a national network of instructors for on-site training or convenient online classes with interactive AED Demo. A full BLS class can be completed in less than an hour.  

The American AEDCPR Association’s online Healthcare Provider BLS training class is accepted in all 50 States. 

Buy a training class today to complete your BLS certification. 

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