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ACLS Provider Manual: Shortcuts to Remember Algorithms and Important Information

Whether you are new to the healthcare field and preparing to earn your advanced cardiovascular life support (ACLS) certification for the first time, or a seasoned professional reviewing old material in order to get recertified, it’s important to brush up on important algorithms and protocols.

An ACLS provider manual can serve as a helpful resource, as there are several tips and tricks for remembering your ACLS training. Here are some mnemonic devices to help you recall information for your certification exam.

The ABCD’s of assessing respiratory arrest

When responding to an emergency, there is a set of steps that you must take to assess a victim that appears to be unresponsive. An easy way to recall the steps of assessment for respiratory arrest is the mnemonic device, ABCD.

Airway – Check the airway to see if it is open or closed. If closed, open the airway by using the head-tilt method.

Breathing – If respirations are poor or absent, give two breaths (using a face mask or barrier device if one is available).

Circulation – Check the patient for a pulse. If there is none, begin compressions. The pulse should be checked about every two minutes, between sets of compressions.

Defibrillation – If the patient remains unresponsive, and an AED is available, defibrillation should be administered.

The six H’s and T’s

Pulseless electrical activity (PEA) is a common condition in cardiac arrests, in which a heart rhythm can be detected on an electrocardiogram, despite the fact that an individual is not producing a pulse. CPR should be administered immediately while potential underlying causes are identified, so that further treatment can occur.

The most common causes of PEA are the six H’s and the six T’s. Categorizing the potential causes in this way is a helpful method for remembering them all.


  1. Hypovolemia
  2. Hypoxia
  3. Hydrogen ion – Acidosis
  4. Hyper- or Hypokalemia
  5. Hypoglycemia
  6. Hypothermia


  1. Tamponade – cardiac
  2. Tension pneumothorax
  3. Thrombosis – coronary or pulmonary
  4. Trauma
  5. Toxins (drug overdose)
  6. Tachycardia

Recognizing stroke – FAST

ACLS training equips professionals to identify the early stages of stroke – early diagnosis increases chance of survival. The main symptoms of stroke can be recalled via the mnemonic device, FAST:

Facial Droop – one side of the face is not moving as well as the other.

Arm Drift – the individual is unable to move either the left or the right arm, or one arm drifts downward when held extended.

Speech – the individual begins to slur words, use the wrong word, or loses the ability to speak.

Time to call 911 if the individual shows one of the above signs, he or she is at a 72 percent risk of stroke. If all three signs are present, the risk rises to 85 percent.

ACLS provider manual and other resources at HealthEdSolutions.com

Health Ed Solutions provides resources for medical professionals and first responders seeking healthcare certification. Offerings include online ACLS certification courses and online ACLS recertification courses, as well as informational resources, including the ACLS provider manuaL. For more information, visit HealthEdSolutions.com