BLS vs. ACLS: What’s the Difference?
Posted On: 6/29/2010
As a healthcare professional, first responder or simply someone who wants to be prepared to handle emergency medical situations, you’re probably familiar with acronyms such as CPR or AED. You may even be familiar with BLS (basic life support) and ACLS (advanced cardiac life support) – but are you familiar with the differences between the two?
As you seek the right certification, it’s important to understand the basic tenants of basic life support versus the advanced decision making processes taught in advanced cardiac life support, as well as the type of certification needed in your work.
To help you understand the distinction, here are five key differences between BLS and ACLS:
- Level of Advancement
Advanced cardiac life support (ACLS) is a more advanced version of the basic life support (BLS) certification held by many health care professionals and first responders. BLS providers can provide immediate CPR and early defibrillation, which can be vital to the survival of a person who has experienced cardiac arrest or another life threatening medical emergency. ACLS involves responding to an unconscious person, analyzing the cause of the emergency, determining the treatment(s) needed and taking more advanced clinical steps to restore their breathing and heartbeat.
- Level of Invasiveness
When providing BLS, caregivers check a person's airway, breathing and circulation and may use rescue breaths, chest compressions and automated external defibrillators. ACLS providers can also use tools such as intubation, electrocardiograms and intravenous medications to treat the patient and determine the cause of the medical emergency.
- Involvement of Pharmaceuticals
BLS providers may not administer pharmaceuticals. They can, however, assist the patient with taking their own medications. ACLS providers commonly use drugs to resuscitate or treat a patient who has experienced a heart attack, drug overdose or other trauma.
- Professional Certification Need
Only qualified healthcare providers, including physicians, paramedics, nurses, respiratory therapists, clinical pharmacists, physician assistants, nurse practitioners and other specially trained health care providers, can provide ACLS. BLS is generally used in the pre-hospital setting. Though most healthcare providers should be certified in BLS, it is also immensely useful for many other professions, such as daycare providers, parks and recreation professionals, teachers and security personnel.
- Certification Length
BLS certification is valid for one year, ACLS certification and recertification for two years.
Health Education Solutions provides healthcare professionals with certification and recertification courses in advanced cardiac life support (ACLS) and pediatric advanced life support (PALS). Our online ACLS / PALS courses are accompanied by a detailed pharmacology guide that can be printed for your reference. Health Education Solutions also offers BLS training online.
The information included in this article is based on the 2005 guidelines for CPR, first aid and advanced cardiovascular care. Read more about how the 2010 guidelines impact BLS classes.
| American Heart Association
| Union College