The ACLS or Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support certification course is a course that is designed to ensure that health-care professionals are up to date with the latest best practices and that they are confident in how to apply life-saving techniques.
Accepted best-practices for life support are always changing based on new evidence and medical developments, and as such it is important that health care professionals engage in continuing professional development and renew their ACLS certifications every two years.
Who Needs the ACLS?
The ACLS course goes far beyond the content of the BLS (Basic Life Support) course and is useful for any health care professionals who are likely to need to provide life support in a cardiopulmonary emergency. The BLS course is sufficient for those who are not likely to be the primary caregiver or decisionmaker in a cardiac situation, while the ACLS provides medical professionals with the tools, knowledge, and confidence to make those critical decisions.
What Does the ACLS Certification Cover?
The ACLS certification content includes:
– Recap of the BLS primary survey
– Details of the ACLS secondary survey, along with critical action points
– How team dynamics can impact on resuscitation efforts
– Clinical situations where the OA and APC adjuncts may be required for airway management, and when bag-mask ventilation or advanced airway adjuncts should be used instead
– What VF and VT look like and how to recognize them on an ECG
– Key indications or contraindications for drugs for pulseless VT and refractory VF, as well as appropriate doses and administration methods
– ACLS initial assessments
– Management algorithms for ACLS
– The 8 Ds in stroke care, and the reason it is crucial that timely action is taken
– How to identify a stroke
How is ACLS Certification Training Delivered?
There are some providers who offer online ACLS certification, however, most courses are delivered in-person, and given the critical nature of the content it makes a lot of sense to take an in-person course so that you can get access to real-time feedback and a chance to engage in some practical examples, group scenarios, and the kind of hands-on dynamic that can only be experienced in a face to face scenario.
Instructor-led training is particularly important for people who have not taken the ACLS before because the content of the course is quite advanced. An instructor-led course can drive home the importance of team dynamics and good communication in crisis situations and can provide better simulations of what should be done during cardiopulmonary arrest and in the crucial post-cardiac arrest phases of care.
Does the ACLS Certification Expire?
The ACLS certification is valid for two years. After that, professionals are required to re-test to ensure that their skills are current. There are a number of options for recertification. Some people like to take the whole course again, while others may consider looking for a provider that offers a recap and retest option. Alternatively, there is the ACLS for Experienced providers, which is an expanded version of the course which offers additional content to help health care providers improve outcomes in more complex situations, such as metabolic issues and toxicologic emergencies.
When you pass the certification, you will be sent a card and certificate which indicates the version of the certification you passed and who the training provider was. Make sure that you use a training provider that is approved by the institution that you work for or that you are planning to seek employment with. Most institutions accept most training providers, however, it pays to confirm that the provider you want to use is on the approved list.
The expiration date for your course will be listed on your ID card. Be sure to arrange re-certification before your qualification expires.
Blended Learning Options
Some experienced health care providers use blended learning to re-certify. With this, some of the academic parts of the certification are studied in a self-directed fashion, while there are hands-on training sessions for CPR skills and for psychomotor skills. Even the online parts of many courses now offer simulations to allow healthcare professionals to perform simulated treatments. There is still no substitute for real, hands-on training, however.
Is the ACLS For Me?
If you are unsure about which course to take, then you should consider your current background and the type of medical work that you do. A background in healthcare is important before embarking on the ACLS, but no prior knowledge is required for the BLS. You can simply take that course and it will provide you with a basic grounding in field lifesaving skills. The ACLS, on the other hand, assumes some knowledge of BLS and also assumes some other basic medical knowledge.
The BLS does not deal with administering drugs, but the ACLS will introduce you to a number of lifesaving drugs and explain which scenarios they are useful for. Both BLS and ACLS cover the use of an automated external defibrillator, and ACLS also covers how to read an understand ECG results. ACLS training is intended for people who will be working in hospitals, not for the general public.
Study Tips for the ACLS
The ACLS is an in-depth course, and the certification offers training for what to do in situations where lives genuinely are at stake. Mistakes in administering drugs or following protocols could be fatal, so the standards required to pass the course are high.
When studying for the ACLS, make sure that you understand the case scenarios and exactly why certain decisions were made.
Memorize the algorithms for PEA, V-Tach, Tachycardia, Asystole and Bradycardia, as well as other scenarios, and make sure that you know the medications and doses off by heart. There are many mnemonic devices that can help with this; some of the mnemonics are not safe for work. Ask your tutor about them, because those humorous ones will often stick in your mind better than the boring textbook examples!
Learn to read ECGs, and practice on test examples as often as you can. Try to get to the stage where you are so confident that the exam is a breeze; after all, you will be using your skills in situations far more important than “just taking a test” should you pass!