As with many things in medicine, it’s not a simple yes or no answer. While BLS Provider can be combined with ACLS into one class, it is not necessarily so. It may be best to separate the answer into two parts:
1. Why you do you need BLS to begin with?
2. What are the different ways to get both certifications?
Why do I Need BLS to Begin With?
It is very easy to just say that something is a required as a prerequisite. But it isn’t an explanation. So, to better explain, this question can be put into perspective like this:
Learn to Walk Before You Learn to Fly- if ACLS is running a marathon, then BLS is walking. If you can’t walk properly, can you effectively run? Of course not. BLS skills are the building blocks of Emergency Cardiac Care. The most important one being the steps in the chain of survival*.
Chain of Survival
- Ensure that the scene is safe (you wouldn’t want to get hurt while helping someone else nor would you want the patient to suffer harm).
- Is the patient responsive? (tap on both shoulders at the same time),
- Call for help (use a bystander, put that fancy smartphone on speaker & call 911).
- Check for a pulse & breathing (5-10 seconds),
- Begin CPR starting w/ chest compressions.
Think of the resuscitation process as a large building with a penthouse at the top. BLS is the foundation, and ACLS the floors in between. Return of Spontaneous Circulation (ROSC) represents the penthouse. Consider that if the foundation of such a building is faulty or simply weak, how likely is it that the building is structurally sound? The likelihood would logically be low. BLS is the beginning that helps build the patient’s chances of survival up & ACLS helps those efforts stay & improve.
The heart is a fancy, complicated pump with four chambers & various valves, etc. It’s essential to keeping this fancy electro-chemical machine that the human body is running properly. When that fancy pump stops working, you have to keep the pumping action going as best as possible. Of course, no human being is going to do compressions & 100% mimic the efficiency of the human heart. But you need to learn how to mimic that pumping action as best as possible.
Medications & the heart’s electrical cycle are essential things to learn about in ACLS. Without proficiency in BLS skills, all of those fancy efforts are for naught. Drugs have to be circulated & the airway has to be opened & maintained. It isn’t just enough that you need to learn how to do a thing, but why. And speaking of….
Does the AHA require BLS certification prior to taking ACLS?
Sort of. The official AHA guidance states “Students in ACLS courses are not required by the AHA to have a current BLS Provider card, but they are expected to be proficient in BLS skills. Training Centers may require students to have current BLS Provider card.”
As part of the ACLS lesson plans for all versions, BLS skill verification & proficiency is a requirement.
The science is updated every 5 years. The International Liaison Committee on Resuscitation (aka ILCOR) has initiated a near-continuous review (Continuous Evidence Evaluation; CEE) of cardiopulmonary resuscitation science. Previously, science was updated & guidelines were published only every 5 years. Rest assured that you are getting the very latest scientific evidence-based treatment guidelines.
Who wants to get stuck in that “We’ve always done it that way” mode? That is scary to say the least.
The basics are of such importance that the AHA maintains its’ own separate plate of BLS offerings. Here are two basic questions to help you decide which is right for you. Are you a healthcare provider? If so, then a BLS provider is likely the course that you should take. It is the most comprehensive.
How to get BLS and ACLS certifications
This can be accomplished through the following methods:
1. A traditional, in person BLS provider program. Code One offers these programs with reduced class sizes to maintain proper distancing & the safest environment for students.
2. Remote Options- BEACON or Virtual Instructor Lead Training
With BEACON you’ll take your AHA certification course online at your own pace through their Heartcode program. With a Virtual Instructor Lead Training, you’ll sit through an online course taught live by a Code One Instructor. In both cases, you’ll then come to any Code One location that’s convenient to you for an individual skills verification.
How individual skills verification works
- Live Code One instructor present through video conferencing
- RQI 1Stop® high-tech computerized manikins for real-time CPR performance feedback
- Successful completion of the online course and hands-on skills exam generates the same AHA certificate you know and trust
- Complete the courses at your convenience. Independent contactless skills verification sessions are offered daily at Code One Skills Training Centers
Watch the BEACON process from start to finish
Are you a physician, physician assistant., nurse practitioner, etc. that is considering working for an agency as a traveler? Are you considering a locum tenens position? In that case(s), you’ll want to maximize any opportunity when spending time between assignments training or maintaining certifications.
Consider this- Since you are already completing many of the same skill assessment requirements as in a traditional BLS Provider Course during ACLS, you can add on BLS certification by completing the online module for Heartcode BLS. Also, you will need to have a skill assessment for child & infant CPR. Successful completion of all the above, can recertify you in BLS. This is also a great option for medical students or those in nursing or physician assistant programs preparing for clinical rotations.
If you are a lay rescuer or member of the general public interested in learning a lifesaving skill? If you answer yes to this question, Heartsaver CPR is the right course for you. Also, it’s important to know if being CPR certified is a job requirement. In that case, see if your position is subject to a certain regulatory requirement(s) or if your employer only accepts certification from a specific credentialing organization.