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BLS, ALS, ACLS - what's the difference?

BLS Training. ALS Training. ACLS Training. What are the differences, and who needs which kind of training?

All the above terms describe types of CPR training for healthcare providers and professional rescuers. However, depending on your job title and work environment, you will find that one of these courses most closely aligns with your occupational requirements. Let's take a quick look at these CPR training courses and see what the differences are.


BLS Provider

BLS stands for Basic Life Support. The AHA BLS Provider class provides training in just that - the basic level of professional care for victims of cardiac arrest. The main objective of BLS is to assist the patient during an emergency until EMS/advanced teams arrive for additional care. It teaches the skills of scene safety and patient assessment, chest compressions, breathing, and use of an AED and bag valve mask (BVM). The BLS Provider class covers CPR for all age groups - adults, children, and infants. Required for professions such as EMTs, nurses and dental hygienists, the BLS Provider course teaches only non-invasive techniques - no use of needles (drug administration) or anything that cuts into the skin. While CPR in the presence of an advanced airway is addressed, the BLS Provider course does not cover placement of such an airway. While the course is designed for healthcare professionals, anyone can attend and complete BLS Provider training. Also, BLS Providers do not receive First Aid training during this class (although they may attend separate First Aid training sessions). BLS Provider classes also discuss techniques for the relief of choking, mouth-to-mouth breathing, and as of recently, administering Naloxone.

ALS (ACLS) Provider

ALS stands for Advanced Life Support. The term is often used interchangeably with ACLS, which is Advanced Cardiac Life Support. ACLS Providers go beyond BLS Provider training in that ACLS units may give injections, administer medications, and place advanced airways -  such as an Endotracheal tube, Laryngeal mask airway or Esophageal-tracheal tube. ACLS Providers may also be equipped with cardiac monitors and glucose testing devices. ACLS Providers can also read and interpret electrocardiograms. They are practiced in airway control (including placement of advanced airways), pharmacology, acute coronary syndromes, and performing as leaders and/or members of a resuscitation team.

ACLS Provider training requires a background in basic medical knowledge. BLS skills must be learned and mastered before beginning ACLS training.


Which class do I need?

If you aren't sure what level of training is required, contact your immediate supervisor, academic institution, or state board. They should be able to tell you whether BLS Provider or ACLS Provider is appropriate or required for you.

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Published on January 14, 2019