Advanced cardiac life support (ACLS) certification is valid for two years, and at the end of that time you will need to take an ACLS recertification class. For many people, it may seem that those two years pass very quickly – especially considering the amount of material that must be learned and memorized.
However, even in busy intensive care units and emergency rooms, the need to use many ACLS protocols and techniques will not happen regularly. And the ACLS curriculum is complex and extensive: there are at least 20 arrhythmias you must be able to recognize, quite a few drugs you must know how to use, and complicated algorithms that need to be memorized.
So, given the amount of material that must learned, the amount of time that has passed since the previous ACLS class, and unlikelihood that you have actually practiced many of the ACLS skills – and the importance of really knowing these skills – it is understandable why ACLS recertification is required every two years.
Another important reason why ACLS recertification is required every two years is that the ACLS curriculum is not static. For example, since 2005, there have been recommendations for major changes in the compression to ventilation ratio, the optimal defibrillation sequence, and the optimal way to perform chest compressions, and there have even been changes in some of the most basic information.
Chest compressions and early defibrillation are now considered initially more important than clearing the airway and giving rescue breaths, and for the untrained rescuer, CAB (compressions, airway, breathing) instead of ABC (airway, breathing, circulation) is now the recommended sequence when first responding to a cardiac arrest.
The basic process of recertification is similar to taking the ACLS class, yet there are some differences. As with an ACLS course, you must have current BLS certification to take a recertification class, but recertification classes (usually) cost a bit less and they are one eight hour day long instead of two. The course structure can vary, depending on how much time each student needs to complete the recertification process.
The instructors should provide you with any new ACLS information and if you feel that you need to review the ACLS curriculum and practice the hands-on skills, you will be given an opportunity to do so. If you have studied and feel confident, you will be allowed to take the recertification test with a minimal amount of classroom time. The recertification test includes a written component and demonstration of the hands-on skills.
Many hospitals sponsor ACLS recertification courses. You can also find a recertification course by calling the American Heart Association (AHA) at 1-877-AHA-4CPR or by using the AHA website: on the main page hit the CPR & ECC link, hit Find A CPR Class, then hit ECC Class Connector. There are many online courses available as well, but course acceptance varies based on your organization or employer.