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What is the Difference Between BLS and ACLS? 

By law, nurses and other healthcare workers must have the basic skills to save a life. Whether they work in an intensive care unit or elementary school setting, healthcare workers often need additional certifications for employment. BLS and ACLS are the most common certifications required for healthcare workers. Both courses teach supportive treatments that medical professionals provide to patients in emergency medical situations.

While BLS and ACLS certifications are similar, they also have many differences and are not the same thing. Though both are proper techniques to aid in saving the life of someone in cardiac arrest, there are differences between the two courses, mainly in how they manage lifesaving objectives. Let’s discuss the differences between the two certifications and which one is right for you.

Comparing ACLS & BLS: Which Certification Is Right For You?

The most significant distinction between ACLS and BLS is the level of advancement between the two certifications. Consider BLS certification as having the most basic fundamentals of lifesaving cardiac care. ACLS is a more sophisticated and advanced certification course that builds on the fundamentals of BLS. Basic life support (BLS) is performed in the beginning stages of the emergency while ACLS is the supportive medical care that healthcare professionals use to continue treatment in the hospital. Both certifications are necessary if you work in healthcare, so how do you know which certification is right for you?

Consider taking an ACLS course if you are a healthcare professional who has not previously completed an ACLS course or simply need an in-depth refresher. ACLS courses allow you to brush up on the latest lifesaving techniques and help you learn how to respond adequately to almost all cardiopulmonary emergencies.

Who should take a BLS certification course? Generally speaking, anyone can take a BLS certification course. However, most BLS courses are geared toward those in the healthcare or first-responder field. Those who are beginning their careers in healthcare or simply want to be more prepared for emergencies can seek BLS certification.

What Does ACLS Stand For?

One of the most common questions is, “What does ACLS stand for?” There’s no shortage of abbreviations in the medical world, so staying on top of them all can be confusing. ACLS is an acronym for advanced cardiovascular life support. The training goes beyond basic life support (BLS) to provide a more comprehensive knowledge of advanced life support.

What Does ACLS Certification Include?

ACLS certification courses teach basic life support skills, such as chest compressions, using the bag-mask device to provide oxygen to the patient, and using an AED. Other skills that are taught during an ACLS certification include:

  • Recognition and management of respiratory issues and cardiac arrest
  • Recognition and management of peri-arrest conditions
  • Related pharmacology
  • Recognition of VF and VT on the ECG
  • Airway management, including intubation
  • Management of stroke and ACS
  • Effective communication as a leader and member of a resuscitation team


During the course, you’ll learn algorithms to treat life-threatening conditions such as cardiac arrest, coronary syndrome, stroke, and other health-related emergencies. Also taught during the course is how to interpret a patient’s heart rhythm with an electrocardiogram.

Who Is ACLS Right For?

Because ACLS consists of advanced, extensive techniques that are more demanding than those covered by the BLS, it is usually a course that is required for healthcare professionals. Doctors, nurses, paramedics, emergency room personnel, and physician assistants must have ACLS training. In most circumstances, certification is necessary for being and staying employed for most professionals in the healthcare field.

What Does BLS Stand For?

BLS, also known as basic life support, is a certification that includes lifesaving skills, such as CPR, rescue breaths without compressions, and pulse checks. Basic life support uses equipment such as automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) and bag valve masks. It’s training to prove that a person has been presented with the BLS material and has demonstrated competency by passing a test.

What Does BLS Certification Include?

In a basic life support skills certification class, you will learn the essentials of emergency cardiac care. As part of the certification course, you’ll learn single-rescuer and team-based CPR. Choking relief and AED operation for infants, children, and adults are also topics covered in the class. Basically, anything you need to learn to provide immediate treatment and resuscitate an unresponsive victim is included in a BLS certification.

Who Is BLS Right For?

Generally speaking, workers in the healthcare field with a certain level of liability or risk are required to have a BLS certification. Professionals who need to know the basics of CPR, AED usage, and other primary methods of lifesaving skills should take a BLS course. This often includes healthcare professionals such as nurses, doctors, physicians, paramedics, emergency medical technicians, medical assistants, dentists, and first responders. Some professions are required to have BLS certification during their licensure process, and others are required by national, state, or association regulations. Employers often require a specific BLS certification that the employee must pass.

ACLS.Com Is Your Source For ACLS & BLS Certifications

As the largest online provider of emergency life support certifications, ACLS Certification Institute has created a better medical certification experience for both patients and providers. We aim to close the gap between emerging medical science and each provider’s ability to stay on top of new information, methods, and practices that incorporate all the necessary information.

Our online certification course, comparable with AHA BLS and AHA ACLS courses, was created to provide healthcare workers with the ability to keep up with the exponential increase of medical knowledge and escalating demands of each provider while simultaneously keeping up with the industry’s growth. We believe online certification provides a more efficient way for everyone to stay current on medical knowledge and practices.

Why Should You Trust ACLS Certification Institute For Your Certifications?

We’re Trusted and Accredited – Both our BLS and ACLS courses are accredited by the ADA, AMA, and ANCC in partnership with the Postgraduate Institute for Medicine (PIM). We’re trusted by more than 100,000 healthcare professionals across the country.

Enjoy the Convenience of an Online Course – When you renew your certification online, you’ll have 24/7 access to course materials and unlimited practice tests, allowing you to complete your certification where and when you want. We even track your progress, give you instant provider card access, and provide you with text and email reminders to ensure you don’t miss a recertification deadline.

Get Started Today

Stay up to date and provide better patient outcomes by enrolling in our online certification courses. We firmly believe that receiving your certification online is not only the most convenient option, but it’s also the most educational and comprehensive. You’ll be taught the most up-to-date, accurate information that fits right into your schedule. Get started on your certification today.

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