Advanced Cardiac Life Support Classes and Courses Overview

Advanced cardiac life support (ACLS) classes teach individuals to provide emergency treatment for patients with heart and breathing problems. These short courses are generally taken alone and lead to certification. Continue reading to learn about a few courses in depth.

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Essential Information

ACLS classes are normally designed for healthcare and emergency response personnel. These courses are generally offered over a 2-day period, and refresher courses in ACLS generally are one day in length. Most course materials and skills are provided by the American Heart Association (AHA), although the courses can be found at hospitals and medical centers. Individuals interested in becoming certified should have some CPR skills before entering this course.

Two common types of ACLS courses include a general ACLS course and a pediatric ACLS course. The skills learned in these courses are practiced on dummies to provide some hands-on training. Students who graduate the course are eligible to take the AHA Advanced Cardiac Life Support examination. This certification is valid for two years, and individuals must complete a refresher course to maintain certification. This refresher course reinforces the skills already learned in the person's original ACLS course.

Here is an outline of concepts learned in advanced cardiac life support classes:

  • Anatomy
  • Physiology
  • Heart problems
  • Team behaviors
  • Pediatric assessment

List of Advanced Cardiac Life Support Classes

Advanced Cardiac Life Support Provider Course

Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) classes are designed to equip healthcare providers with the skills to assist patients experiencing cardiac (heart) problems. Students learn airway management skills, manual and Automated External Defibrillator (AED) techniques, administration of cardiac drugs and bag-valve mask ventilation. Students are also introduced to invasive airway maneuvers, cardiac rhythms, arrhythmia and dysrhythmia recognition, pharmacology and stroke symptoms.

ACLS classes are generally 1-2 days in length, and students who graduate are eligible to take the American Heart Association (AHA) ACLS certification exam. The resulting ACLS card is good for two years; students must take refresher courses to keep the card active.

Advanced Cardiac Life Support Refresher Course

This ACLS refresher class is designed for individuals who are currently certified in ACLS and wish to update their ACLS card. The refresher course generally takes one full day to complete and includes classroom instruction with hands-on activities meant to enhance and reinforce skills previously learned in an ACLS class.

Individuals who have an expired ACLS card are not generally allowed into the refresher course, though special allowances may be provided through test taking or skills assessments. Some programs offer an Advanced Cardiac Life Support Experienced Provider (ACLS-EP) class that is intended for students who want to take their ACLS training to the next level; this class often qualifies as a refresher course.

Pediatric Advanced Life Support Course

The Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) class is designed for healthcare professionals who care for pediatric patients. The class introduces the principles of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) for infants. Topics covered include bag-valve mask ventilation, operation of an AED, invasive airway maneuvers and placing an intraosseous (bone marrow injection) needle.

Students may be taught to recognize and treat infant cardiac dysrhythmias, acute shock, asthma attacks and other cardiac disturbances. Other skills include pediatric fluid therapy, infant pharmacology, airway management and vascular access techniques. The basic PALS course is generally two full days in length, and the recertification is one full day; current healthcare providers and nurses may receive continuing education credits for taking this course.

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