CPR vs. BLS Training: What’s the Difference? Which Is Better?
CPR vs. BLS Training: What's the Difference? Which Is Better?
by Mackenzie Thompson
Life Saver, NHCPS
posted on Nov 27, 2020, at 8:43 am
So you’re trying to decide whether you should get certified in CPR or BLS for your career and lifestyle. First, let us say we’re delighted that you understand the importance of learning one or both of these lifesaving methods. When seconds matter in a life or death situation, having one or more people in a room who is trained in either can make all the difference for an individual, their family, and all the people who love them.
At a glance, they both seem similar. They both teach you what to do if someone has a cardiac emergency. But the difference between them will help you decide the best one for you.
How CPR and Basic Life Support (BLS) Are Similar
Both Can Save a Life
In both cases, you’ll learn a clear set of guidelines and follow a decision tree to determine the best course of action for a situation. For example, you learn how to:
- Assess the airway and maintain the airway
- Administer breaths
- Get the heart beating again
- Use an automatic defibrillator, when available
- Keep the heart beating until more advanced lifesaving techniques can be applied
Both Use Clearly Defined Algorithms
Both courses include learning a set of clearly defined steps and decision trees that ensure you know what to do in various situations. These are based on best practices that have scientifically-demonstrated that they can preserve life and quality of life.
These steps and decision-trees are called algorithms. They are visual flow charts that walk you through uniform procedures, giving you the confidence you need when someone’s life is hanging in the balance.
Depending on which you take, you may view Basic CPR algorithms or BLS algorithms. Once you are familiar with algorithms, you can use more advanced algorithms like Opioid overdose algorithms or COVID-19 algorithms based on your skill level.
You Can Be Certified
You can get certified in either or both of these. Certification can be obtained in a classroom setting with other students or get your CPR or BLS certification 100% online.
Some Employers or Licensing Boards Require Certification
In some careers, getting certified and maintaining your certification through periodic recertification may be a requirement for your license or to keep your job. The type of job you have may determine which you need.
Recertifications Help You Stay Current
Both CPR courses and BLS courses have a recertification option, so as your certification expires, you can refresh your understanding and learn about any changes during the recertification process.
What Is the Difference Between CPR and BLS?
The primary is that Basic Life Support (BLS) goes into additional detail regarding managing a cardiac event in a medical setting where you’re more likely to have access to medical equipment and more advanced lifesaving tools, and those with more medical training may be nearby.
Clearly, if you have these resources available to you, you can take additional steps to protect an individual’s health and well-being experiencing a cardiac emergency. A person who needs to make more advanced healthcare decisions would need BLS training rather than CPR.
BLS clearly defines roles within a medical setting based upon who is available to help so that medical professionals best know how to support each other without getting in the way. That’s a situation unique to the medical setting since so many people are likely to know CPR.
Another difference is this. Since CPR courses are intended for people who will be helping “victims” outside of a clinical setting, the course you take may actually be CPR plus First Aid. In a course like this, you learn how to manage various medical emergencies in a non-medical setting while awaiting emergency responders.
Who Needs BLS Training?
As a general rule, healthcare providers should take Basic Life Support, and they should get certified. A BLS course will teach them how to effectively work with people who have less or more medical training to improve the chances that the patient survives and can maintain a quality of life.
Some of these professionals include:
- Dental Hygienists
- Nurse Practitioners
- Home health aids
- Nursing home non-clinical staff
- Assisted living non-clinical staff
- Mental health professionals
- Various types of therapists (physical therapy, etc.)
While each of these individuals has varying degrees of clinical skill or experience, all of them may be called upon during a cardiac emergency, especially during a disaster when multiple people may need life support. And everyone needs to uniformly know what Basic Life Support procedures are so they can work together.
Who Should Take CPR Courses?
In a perfect world, everyone would get certified in CPR and First Aid. In CPR training, you learn the Chain of Survival. That is how to resuscitate someone and keep them alive until medical personnel arrives.
Every year, nearly 400,000 people experience an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest, according to the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation. Around 7000 of these are children. Around 70% happen at home, 18% in public, and 11% in nursing homes.
In around 39% of cases, someone in the area knows and starts CPR. And in six percent of cases, they use an AED (Automatic Emergency Defibrillation). Those are solid numbers. But, in the other 61% of cases, sadly, no one in the area knew CPR.
That matters because take a look at the next figure.
According to Nig.gov, survival rates during out-of-hospital cardiac events have risen from 14% to nearly 21%, thanks to an increase in the number of “bystanders” trained in CPR and AED. Another study reported by the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation studied 132 counties around the US and found that the chance of survival goes up based on the number of people in a county-certified in CPR.
In an out-of-hospital event, you could be the one to save a life.
While it would be great if everyone got CPR certified, the following careers especially need this training:
- Police officers and prison personnel
- High School and College Coaches – 1 out of 43,770 student-athletes 17-24 will experience a non-trauma out-of-hospital cardiac event in a given year.
- Daycare workers and teachers
- Classroom teachers – The cardiac arrest rate in students is 0.63 per 100,000 for the average non-athlete student, according to Pubmed
- Human resources professional
- Grocery store clerks – 18% of cardiac emergencies happen in public places, such as the grocery store
- Security for sporting events and entertainment
- Gym employees
- Anyone with an aging parent or chronic illness sufferer in the home
- Anyone with children
- Office workers
- Construction workers
- Truck drivers
So just about any adult, and older teens too should learn CPR. And while there is a focus on cardiac events when you’re speaking about CPR certification, you can get certified in CPR and First Aid at the same time to manage a wider variety of out-of-hospital emergencies.
Getting certified in CPR and First Aid as a non-medical person can open up doors in your career because most employers today understand how important it is to have several people in the building who know CPR both for ethical reasons and liability issues.
Benefits of a CPR and First Aid Certification
Top nine reasons everyday people get their certification
- Make a difference in someone’s life. That person may not have survived without your quick action.
- Give a person a better chance at survival and quality of life because you administer needed care more quickly, preserving brain function
- As a non-medical person, it can open up doors in your career
Reduce liability risk for your company
- Fill a void in many regions where the number of CPR-certified people is limited
- Give you peace of mind that you’d know what to do if a child, loved one, co-worker, or stranger has an event
- Get to use impressive equipment. Only CPR-certified people should use an AED. That’s the shocking device you see in medical dramas. Clear! It’s a privilege to have the skill to shock a heart back into rhythm.
- And, let’s not forget the joy and accomplishment you feel when you get a chance to be the hero in a life and death situation. Getting CPR and First Aid certified gives you the confidence you need to act fast and give someone a fighting chance.
- Get an impressive certification card to carry in your wallet. You earned it!
Benefits of BLS Certification
The top ten reasons those in clinical settings get certified.
- Increase confidence on the job
- Perform duties more competently
- Stay calm under pressure
- Earn Continued Medical Education Credits for Licensure
- Work more effectively with coworkers
- Manage a medical emergency
- May be a deciding factor when up for a promotion or interviewing for a job
- May earn a raise if not a requirement of employment
- May be reimbursable by your employer
- Speeds recovery of patients in your care because you started more advanced CPR procedures faster
What You Learn in CPR, AED, and First Aid Training
This training includes step-by-step, choreographed, and easy-to-remember procedures approved as best practice by Ilcor (International Liaison Committee on Resuscitation)
In Save a Life CPR, AED, and First Aid Certification Course, you learn:
- Proper first aid technique for many common injuries from mild to severe
- How to identify, assess, and manage medical problems as a non-medical person while awaiting emergency responders. These include but aren’t limited to breathing problems, seizures, stroke, anxiety attack, heart attack, allergic reactions, low blood sugar, fainting, shock, drug overdose, etc.
- What to do if the person has suffered a traumatic injury
- What to do if someone has been exposed to an environmental danger such as bites/stings, extreme cold/heat, or poisoning
- How to help someone who is choking
- Adult CPR and AED
- Child CPR and AED
- Infant CPR
What You Learn In Basic Life Support
- General Concepts in BLS
- Initiating the Chain of Survival
- Basic Life Support for Adults
- What to do when you have one rescuer or two available
- Bag-mask ventilation
- Mouth-to-mask ventilation
- Adult BLS algorithms and how to use them
- Using an AED
- BLS for various ages of children
- BLS for infants
- How to ventilate a child
- How to manage the airway
- Relieving a choking person (adult, child, infant)
Should You Get Certified in Both?
While CPR and First Aid are designed for non-medical personnel, and BLS for people in a medical setting, anyone can take BLS if they’d like to go through more advanced medical training.
And a person in a clinical setting can take CPR plus First Aid to reinforce their knowledge of managing other medical emergencies like those mentioned above when they do not have medical resources on hand.
How Do Online Courses Work?
Yes, you can get your certifications 100% online now. You get the same high-quality training you would with an in-person instructor without the hassle or COVID-risk of an in-person class.
In both courses, you will:
- Complete a set of detailed videos led by skilled certification instructors
- Review the included study guide and written materials
- Take the practice test to see if you’re ready to proceed to your certification test
- Take your online certification or recertification test
Pass the test
- Pay a small certification fee if you want to become certified or recertified and receive your CME credits, if applicable
- Get your digital/printable certification card
- Show your certification to your employer or licensing organization as needed
- Get the app that houses all of the algorithms you learn in the courses for various situations
- Be ready to Save a Life
CPR Vs. BLS
These courses are similar. But which certifications you need depends primarily on what you need to get out of the course. Are you in a clinical setting where you will likely have access to more advanced equipment and need to make more in-depth decisions? BLS is likely your best choice. Do you work outside of a clinical setting but want to be prepared in case of an emergency? A certification that combines CPR, AED and First Aid may be your best option.