ACLS Certification Requirements

July 19, 2012

Advanced Cardiac Life Support or ACLS, is a specialized set of protocols created for medical professionals to use with patients who are experiencing serious cardiac-related emergencies. ACLS expands upon the techniques of basic life support—the basic training for CPR certification—and introduces more advanced skills such as defibrillation, IV use, intubation, and ECG analysis. Many types of healthcare personnel must be qualified to handle major emergencies involving heart arrhythmias and cardiac arrest, especially those working in the field of emergency medicine. ACLS certification courses train professionals to augment their existing CPR knowledge and employ these more advanced methods.

The most important requirement is that you must already be a trained medical professional with a working knowledge of CPR. Organizations who offer certification courses expect ACLS trainees to already have experience in the healthcare field and a vast amount of medical knowledge.  This means that ACLS is not for students who are just entering the field of medicine, but for trained personnel such as EMTs, nurses, physicians, and paramedics. These professionals are expected to be ACLS certified, and are the ones who will use ACLS protocols on a routine basis.

What does ACLS training entail?

ACLS certification courses prepare a healthcare worker to assess emergency situations and give initial care while using ACLS protocol. Those certified in ACLS are trained to identify acute coronary syndromes and ischemic chest pain, recognize the signs of stroke, manage cardiac arrest, use ACLS algorithms, participate in organized resuscitation teamwork, and provide initial treatment for cardiac-related clinical situations.

Various institutions offer ACLS certification courses, both online and offline at local training centers. These courses are designed to refresh one’s knowledge of basic CPR skills, test their ability to perform alone and with a team, and introduce new material and more advanced medical equipment that is used in ACLS. After completing a certification program, the medical worker will obtain an ACLS certification card to display and show to potential employers.

Certification Renewals

Certification in ACLS expires within two years of passing your final exam. Recertification is necessary every two years because ACLS criteria and guidelines change very often, and it is crucial for healthcare workers to be up to date with the latest protocol. Because advanced cardiac life support is a very hands-on approach, biennial certification assures that certified professionals are familiar with the material and have in-depth technical experience using their ACLS skillset in various clinical scenarios.

Many health care professions require ACLS certification. Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) is defined by the American Heart Association (AHA) as an algorithm of medical techniques and procedures used for the urgent treatment of life threatening cardiac emergencies such as cardiac arrest and stroke.  Many employers require their healthcare personnel to obtain ACLS certification from organizations and companies accredited by American Heart Association (AHA). To obtain ACLS certification, one must complete the ACLS Coursework and pass the exam at the end of the course.

What is ACLS Certification?

ACLS Certification is a career requirement for many health-related professions. It involves advanced training and preparation for health care professionals to ensure that they have the necessary knowledge and skills to respond appropriately during medical emergencies.

As its name implies, ACLS is an advanced application of basic life support (BLS) skills, which include training in CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation), rescue breathing, and management of choking.  ACLS certification programs cover protocols on medical management of cardiopulmonary arrest and other cardiovascular emergencies, airway management, application of related pharmacology, and immediate post-cardiac-arrest care. The course teaches trainees about the assessment of breathing, opening the airways by intubation, monitoring and stabilizing circulation, and using a defibrillator to reverse abnormal cardiac rhythms. The training also includes skills on accessing the patient’s veins, starting intravenous lines, and placement of central lines.

ACLS certification courses train health care professionals to recognize and treat specific emergencies that may lead to cardiac arrest such as anaphylaxis, asthma, drowning, hypothermia, trauma, and drug overdose. Management of special situations such as cardiac arrest in pregnant patients is also part of the training.

ACLS careers

The course emphasizes the importance of communication and team dynamics. Courses may be taught to small or large groups and present case-based scenarios as part of the test.

ACLS certification programs are available through the AHA. The course usually takes 14 hours for completion, after which trainees have to demonstrate competency in every learning station, pass the skills test in bag-mask ventilation, CPR-AED, and megacode. They also have to pass a written examination. ACLS certification is valid for two years only and must be followed by recertification.

Careers that Require ACLS Certification

ACLS programs are designed for healthcare professionals who participate in the medical management of cardiopulmonary arrest as well as other cardiovascular emergencies. ACLS certification involves knowledge of advanced medical skills and it is therefore offered only to licensed health professionals such as physicians, registered nurses, paramedics, respiratory therapists, emergency medical technicians (EMTs), and other personnel involved in emergency medicine, emergency response, intensive care, and critical care units.

There is a wide range of careers that may require ACLS certification. The International Standard Classification of Occupations classifies health workers into “Health professionals,” "health associate professionals,” and other health service providers. Most of them may require ACLS certification, although requirements may vary depending on the institutions they work with (some may require only BLS certification).

Health Professionals

Health professionals are highly skilled health workers, who are involved in providing preventive, therapeutic, rehabilitative, and other health services. Their careers require extensive theoretical knowledge, research, and supervision of other workers. Their knowledge and various skills are obtained through university-level education for three to six years leading to high qualifications.  Health professionals include:

Health Associate Professionals

 Also called allied health professionals, these health care providers support the implementation of health care, treatment plans and referrals made by physicians, nurses, and other health professionals. They require formal qualifications, work experience, or on-the-job training to practice their profession.

Health Associate Professionals include:

Requirements for ACLS Certification

Only qualified health care professionals must take the training course. ACLS involves highly advanced patient care, which is needed in case of severe trauma or cardiac emergencies. Before taking an ACLS certification program, a person needs to pass a course in CPR and obtain CPR certification. Registration for the ACLS certification course requires proof of up to date CPR certification.

People who do not possess adequate education or training in the medical field may have difficulty taking the ACLS course. Furthermore, attempting to practice ACLS without proper knowledge or valid certification may make one liable for malpractice or lawsuit.

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