Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support (ACLS) certification takes medical professionals such as nurses, paramedics, clinicians, and others beyond basic life support services. The ACLS course builds on what these professionals already know about basic life support and focuses on interventions for cardiopulmonary arrest along with post-cardiac arrest, stroke, arrhythmias, and acute coronary syndromes.
Each year, an estimated 550,000 people go into cardiac arrest both in and out of the hospital. The mortality rate runs as high as 90 percent for out-of-hospital patients. High-quality cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), AEDs, and advanced cardiovascular life support are their best hope of survival along with early interventions.
There are many places healthcare professionals can go to get quality ACLS training and accreditation beyond the obvious choices that are not always convenient or cost-effective.
Basic Life Support (BLS) training gives you some education and guidelines to preserve life, and to whatever extent possible, quality of life whether you’re a nurse, EMT, or an elementary school teacher who just wants to be prepared for the “what-if”. You’ll know what to do in common COVID-related emergencies and be able to offer first aid, CPR, and defibrillation.
Given the recentness of COVID, however, it has taken some time to get COVID algorithms updated across organizations.
What is ACLS Training?
Advanced cardiovascular life support training teaches healthcare professionals basic life support skills such as effective chest compressions and the use of the bag-mask device. It also provides instruction on the handling of AEDs. The goal is to introduce a systematic approach to cardiac arrest treatment among healthcare professionals, so everyone is taking the same steps for resuscitation, whether it be pre-hospital interventions or during an in-hospital cardiac emergency.
After completing the training, individuals should be able to:
- Recognize respiratory and cardiac arrest. The course covers the early management of these medical emergencies.
- Recognize peri-arrest conditions like bradycardia
- Handle airway management
- Understand pharmacology related to cardio management
- Recognize and manage acute coronary syndrome (ACS) and stroke
- Be able to participate and lead a resuscitation team
ACLS training is for healthcare professionals, not those who take required basic life support such as police officers, teachers, and coaches. ACLS candidates already know the basics of life support. They also understand how to read electrocardiograms and administer medication. They have training in the fundamentals of anatomy and pharmacology, as well. ACLS is often a requirement for employment as a nurse, physician, or paramedic.
ACLS certification lasts for two years. At that point, professionals need to take a recertification course to refresh their skills.
Benefits of ACLS Certification for Public Health
There are two considerations when discussing the benefits of ACLS certification. First, how does it serve public health?
For those in cardiac arrest, it could increase their chance at a positive outcome. The knowledge and skills acquired through ACLS training prepare you to identify and treat life-threatening conditions. It also puts everyone on the same page to provide a consistent response using the most current information about cardiovascular emergency events and following guidelines from the Joint Commission (JCAHO) and other organizations.
A 2000 study published in Resuscitation found that ACLS training for nurses significantly impacted survival to discharge rates. Pre-hospital advantages are less clear because there are more variables. For example, how long it takes to begin resuscitation has an impact on outcomes. A 2007 report in the Emergency Medicine Journal did find that ACLS training for paramedics provided added survival benefits, though.
The Advantages of ACLS Certification for Career Professionals
Getting ACLS certification provides clear career advantages, as well. For healthcare professionals, it adds a skill set to their resume, improving their reputation in the workforce and their job prospects. Many potential employers look for this certification and may require it for employment, especially for those working with critical patients such as ICU nurses.
ACLS training also instills confidence for people working in healthcare. It helps them to know they have the discipline and skills to manage a cardiac emergency.
The Flexibility of Online Certification
Technology has provided healthcare professionals with a better way to certify. Online certification impacts the learning process in many ways.
It makes it easier for those who work a full-time job to take advantage of ACLS certification. They don’t need to worry about taking time off from work or commuting to a class location.
The online certification process is more flexible, too. In most cases, it’s merely a matter of signing up for the course and then moving through the study material at your own pace.
Finally, the cost is a factor when it comes to the online learning environment. The online platform has less overhead than in-person training, and that translates into fewer expenses for those looking to get certified.
Not all websites that offer online ACLS certification are the same, though. It’s essential to find one that provides authentic and science-based training. Somethings to look for in an online certification program:
- Nationally and internationally acceptance
- Evidence-based training that follows current guidelines and is in compliance with the Joint Commission standards.
- Continuing education credits
- Ad-free online environment
- Good reputation
- Customer support
- Recertification options
Find a program that offers free resources, too. For example, many provide access to study materials and practice exams, even if you don’t sign up to take their course.
Best Alternatives to the Standard In-Person ACLS Certification Course
The list offers some alternatives to traditional ACLS certification options.
SaveaLife.com by NHCPS
SaveaLife.com is one of the top online ACLS certification programs available. Board-certified physicians have designed the courses offered by SaveaLife.com. They adhere to the latest standards and guidelines to ensure the curriculum is always up-to-date.
Specific benefits at SaveaLife.com include:
- 100% online and available via computer or mobile device
- Internationally acceptance
- 98% national acceptance rate
- Joint Commission compliant
- Exclusive study material
- Digital and printed certification card
- ACLS pretest
The online learning model consists of a variety of study materials, including skills videos, PDF handbooks, and audiobooks. There is no required in-person skills test, but SaveaLife.com training material consists of training videos, MegaCodes, algorithms, and exams. They also offer live skills sessions and webinars.
You can take advantage of SaveaLife.com’s free study guides for ACLS and the other courses. They also provide practice tests and mega code scenario simulations. Megacode simulations give you a real case to work through step-by-step.
Megacode scenarios provide information about a patient and allow you to make an assessment and then put your skills to the test. As the reader answers each question, the program moves forward with new information. For example, one scenario is a 12-year old who collapses at a sporting event. This mega code scenario walks you through the initial assessment, shows you the EKG, and lets you determine each treatment step. The timed Megacode scenes have been created so you are required to work quickly but if a mistake is made, you’ll be able to understand what went wrong.
SaveaLife.com offers up to eight CME/CE credits per course.
Along with ACLS online certification, SaveaLife.com offers accreditation in:
- Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS)
- Basic Life Support (BLS)
- CPR, AED & First Aid Certification (CPR)
There are bundling opportunities for ACLS, PALS, BLS, and CPR online that save you money and recertification courses.
The combination of advanced training material, comprehensive exams, and a convenient and straightforward platform make SaveaLife.com one of the top options for accredited online certification and recertification courses.
Save a Life Certifications by NHCPS is empowered by the Disque Foundation and the Save a Life Initiative, one of the leading providers of online healthcare education programs, including certification courses such as ACLS. Their website has the endorsement of HONcode, an honor bestowed on only one percent of internet sites. This distinction indicates that SaveaLife.com offers quality health information with access to the most current medical data.
Pacific Medical Training
Pacific Medical Training provides a web-based continuing education solution for healthcare professionals, including ACLS certification and recertification. Their courses include everything an individual needs to pass their exam. Once complete, they get an instant provider card free and the physical card in the mail.
Also, certification from Pacific Medical Training offers up to eight CME/CE credits per course, certified by the Postgraduate Institute for Medicine. Their certification is accepted in all 50 States and in Canada.
Pacific also offers PALS and BLS courses that do not require taking a skills test. The exception would be paramedics who have been enrolled by their employer. Students may also request skills training, but those who don’t ask for it will still get the skills forms.
Pacific offers ACLS sample tests and provides a reminder to get recertification when the time comes.
Shore Medical Center
Shore Medical Center in Somers Point, New Jersey, offers a two-day ACLS course that includes skills and academic information on how to handle cardiac arrest. They provide this course to both employees and community members.
With the course only being offered in-person, dates can be limited. Prerequisites for the course include Basic Life Support (must be current) and the ACLS pretest with a passing score of at least 70 percent.
The course involves the use of a manual, which you must purchase before class, and presentations that focus on specific algorithms.
Promed Certifications offer online courses for ACLS, as well as PALS BLS and CPR. They also provide recertifications. Promed states it takes the average users about one to two hours to complete one of their programs, including passing the exam.
Their ACLS course provides eight CEU/CME credits. It offers the latest ILCOR guidelines plus unlimited exam attempts and instant car access. With it being nationally accepted, the certification requires no skills testing.
The Promed learning module includes 80 pages of training material, 16 core sections, nine printable algorithms, and mobile access. Promed ACLS certification is compliant with the Joint Commission standards.
National CPR Association
The National CPR Association offers a variety of training courses, including ACLS. This course is offered online and includes materials created by the National CPR Association. Free practice tests and exam retakes are provided.
In addition to ACLS, the National CPR Association offers:
- First Aid
- Bloodborne pathogens
- Infant CPR
- Neonatal resuscitation
All courses are online.
Atlanta Medical Academy
The Atlanta Medical Academy out of Locust Grove, Georgia, offers a variety of certification courses, including ACLS. The academy’s run by lead instructor Jeff Bratcher, a paramedic with more than 24 years in emergency medicine.
Atlanta Medical Academy opened in 2009 and today focuses on training healthcare professionals in:
- PALS certification
EKG and IV certification courses are also offered.
Atlanta Medical allows you to sign up and pay for the courses online. Students get their certification cards the same day they complete their training. Atlanta Medical Academy does not offer resources for those considering ACLS training.
United Medical Education
United Medical Education is an online course platform that offers ACLS certification along with:
- BLS with Online CPR training
They also provide recertification courses in all three programs and first aid training online.
The United Medical Education learning model is entirely automated, so there are no instructors. It provides almost instantaneous feedback for learning. Despite the unique delivery method, the company claims their certification acceptance is both national and international for ACLS.
After completing a course, users get an instant digital provider card and a hard copy with free standard shipping. They can request express shipping for an additional fee. Their online exam program provides instant grading, as well and unlimited retake options. Laypeople can go to this site for free education on CPR and AED, too.
United Medical Education does not offer free resources like ACLS study guidelines, but they do provide practice exams.
California ACLS Training Institute
The California ACLS Training Institute provides online courses in:
Recertification courses are also offered.
The company states that their courses have both national and international acceptance in most countries. Their goal is to offer healthcare professionals high-quality learning experiences with the flexibility that comes with online training. The certification for the California ACLS Training Institute requires no skill test, and they offer 24-hour customer service.
The staff at California ACLS Training Institute consists of medical professionals and trainers. Their courses adhere to ILCOR guidelines but they do not provide free resources like study guides or mega code scenarios.
American Red Cross
The American Red Cross is a name that comes up a lot for life support courses, but they do not offer a strictly online program for advanced training. Instead, they provide in-person training or a blended option.
Their ALS Blended learning program allows for online coursework and an in-person skills session. They use interactive scenarios to help professionals understand the science behind ALS to improve decision-making skills.
Along with ACLS training, the American Red Cross provides:
- A combined ALS and PALS training program
- ALS Blended Learning
- PALS Blended Learning
- ALS & PALS Instructor Bridge
- CPR Online Certification
The downside to this provider is you must travel at least once for their skills session training. The American Red Cross is available in many areas, but healthcare professionals working in smaller towns and rural communities may have to commute to find a training site. For those working full-time, that could present a problem.
The American Red Cross offers many different services but does not provide free study resources. Their online classes include basic first aid, CPR, AED along with how to use auto-injectors.
Finding the Right ACLS Course
ACLS courses are common, so how do you find the right one? The first decision is, do you want to take the course online or in-person. Once you make that choice, look at the benefits each provider offers and verify their legitimacy by looking at reviews and testimonials.
Only consider a company that provides a 100 percent money-back guarantee just in case current or future employers do not accept the certification. Check to see if the guarantee has a time limit, as well.
Determine what is the most convenient based on your schedule, as well as what programs provide the most resources and flexibility. For many, the best choice will be an online learning model because it is self-paced.
Finally, consider the cost of each course and what study material they offer. This is where competent providers stand out. The better quality the training material, the better the course.
What else is important when shopping for the right ACLS course?
- Resources like practice tests and workbooks
- Positive reputation
And make sure that the choice you make aligns with what your employer requires, your career goals, and your personal needs.
Many factors should be considered when choosing an ACLS course, but, with a little forethought, you can make an informed decision. But, with a little forethought, you can make an informed decision.