Advanced cardiac life support (ACLS) is the next step up from basic life support (BLS). Essentially, BLS is CPR, but it is for medical professionals instead of the general public. Some medical professionals are nervous about ACLS, wondering how hard it will be. Some are excited about it, the adrenaline rush, and the ability to save a life. Choosing whether to get ACLS training is sometimes a difficult decision. You may need to pay for it out of your own pocket if your facility doesn’t support continuing education. There is also a practical test that needs to be passed.
ACLS isn’t for the faint of heart, and it is rather like trying to take a sip out of a firehose. For most people, studying at home is a great way to prepare for the class, but it can still be stressful. If you are taking your first ACLS class, don’t opt for an internet class. You need to be in an environment where you can ask questions, put your hands on the equipment, and learn what it takes to run a code. There are other considerations, as well, that you should think about if you want to take ACLS, or if you are required to because of your working situation.
Level of Training
Just about anyone can take ACLS, but a few professionals are more likely to need it. Nurse’s aides and other ancillary staff probably would not benefit from ACLS, though they certainly should be experts at BLS. Licensed vocational nurses, or LPN/LVNs, will often be called upon to assist in ACLS. In addition to providing BLS support, LPN/LVNs may be responsible for recording or helping with the preparation of medication. They can also help read from the algorithms to determine which steps should be taken in which order.
Nurses at any level – associate’s, bachelor’s, or master’s – are prime candidates for ACLS training. In fact, this class is almost necessary for a nurse to take and master. Although doctors will usually run codes, it is up to the nurses to follow through on those orders. Nurses can secure advanced airways, push medicines, and interpret ECG tracings. Another group of practitioners that absolutely need ACLS are paramedics. When in the field, a paramedic is often the only one around and needs to know their algorithms. Finally, doctors need ACLS because they run the codes. Again, they need to be experts in this certification to ensure positive patient outcomes.
Area of Work
Some areas of medical treatment are more likely to need ACLS training than others. One could make the case that nursing home nurses don’t need ACLS, but what if it takes a long time for the paramedics to arrive? Wouldn’t it serve the patient better for the nurse to know ACLS and begin the protocols? Without it, the nurse can only perform BLS, and some homes are not even well equipped for that. In addition, many residents are do not resuscitate (DNR), so the benefit of having ACLS if you work in this subspecialty is questionable. In other words, it is up to the nurse, depending on what their work is likely to require. In addition, having the certification isn’t a bad thing. You may even get a raise at work for having continuing education.
Nurses who work in hospitals are more likely to need ACLS, but not all units will require it. Intensive care and telemetry are two that will require the training, but same day surgery and some cancer floors may not need it that urgently. Some cancer floors are like the nursing home in that many patients are DNR. However, cardiac arrest can happen anywhere, especially if someone is in the hospital in the first place. Who needs ACLS training? Technically all nurses, but some can get away without it, depending on specialty.
You aren’t always going to work in the nursing home or on a unit that doesn’t require ACLS. In the future, though, you may work somewhere that it would be useful. Getting your certification can look good on a resume and make you more valuable to a potential employer. It is certainly recommended if you are looking to work in critical care or emergency units. Again, some hospitals give bonuses for having more certifications. It is considered continuing education and can make a difference in your review.
Some facilities pay for advanced training, and you should take advantage of that as much as possible. When working as a nurse, you need to take all the perks you can get. Use the monies your facility is setting aside for this training, and take ACLS. Don’t be nervous about the megacode or the studying. It is much more complex than BLS, but it isn’t impossible. If you could pass nursing school, you can definitely pass ACLS. If you are a nurse, the recommendation would be to take ACLS, regardless of where you work.
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Lynda is a registered nurse with three years experience on a busy surgical floor in a city hospital. She graduated with an Associates degree in Nursing from Mercyhurst College Northeast in 2007 and lives in Erie, Pennsylvania in the United States. In her work, she took care of patients post operatively from open heart surgery, immediately post-operatively from gastric bypass, gastric banding surgery and post abdominal surgery. She also dealt with patient populations that experienced active chest pain, congestive heart failure, end stage renal disease, uncontrolled diabetes and a variety of other chronic, mental and surgical conditions. Her Website.