Advanced Cardiac Life Support: What You Need to Know About Certification

Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) certification is required for most health care professionals. Those involved in cardiac care get the skills to respond quickly and appropriately to cardiopulmonary emergencies.

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Advanced Cardiac Life Support: What You Need to Know About Certification
4 Min Read February 8th, 2023

According to the American Heart Association, an estimated 735,000 Americans suffer a heart attack each year. Of those, 525,000 are first-time heart attacks, and 210,000 are recurrent attacks. This can be scary for the individual and their families. Immediate action is required.

When someone starts to go into cardiac arrest, their body will begin to show signs of distress. Their heart rate and blood pressure will often drop drastically, and they may become unresponsive. They may also exhibit shallow breathing, chest pain, dizziness, or a sudden loss of consciousness. 

If someone is experiencing cardiac arrest, it is important to call 911 immediately and begin cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Without quick medical attention, the individual can suffer permanent damage or death.

When someone has a heart event, having someone with Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) training can be a lifesaver. Advanced Cardiac Life Support training is typically intended for health care professionals such as paramedics, nurses, respiratory therapists, and physicians. ACLS is designed to provide the necessary skills and knowledge to recognize and treat life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias, stroke, and cardiac arrest. 

Advanced CPR

ACLS is an advanced form of CPR that includes additional skills such as airway management, rhythm recognition and analysis, defibrillation, medication administration, and synchronized cardioversion. 

If you are a health care provider or first responder, having ACLS and Basic Life Support (BLS) certification will benefit your ability to help people when they are having a cardiac event. 

Advanced Cardiac Life Support certification is required for many health care professions. It is most commonly required for doctors, nurses, paramedics, and other emergency medical technicians. ACLS certification is also sometimes required for respiratory therapists, anesthesiologists, and other medical professionals involved in cardiac care. 

Basic Life Support (BLS) certification is required for many medical professionals, but many jobs that involve providing medical care or interacting with patients in any capacity must have individuals certified in BLS. In addition, some other professions that require BLS include dental hygienists, firefighter/EMTs, and water safety instructors. 

Most police departments require officers to have some sort of medical certification, typically Basic Life Support (BLS). BLS is the most widely used CPR certification and is designed to train individuals in the proper techniques for administering cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

In order to be certified in ACLS, healthcare professionals must complete a comprehensive course and pass an exam. Not only will the knowledge and skills of the trained individual help stabilize the person in distress, but their emotional support can also be beneficial. Knowing someone is there to help can give the patient more confidence and peace of mind that they are going to get the care they need in order to survive. 

The trained individual may be able to provide calming words and reassuring gestures while they work to stabilize the patient and keep them as calm as possible during a stressful experience. It is comforting for both parties to know that someone with ACLS training is present, knowledgeable in how to respond, and prepared to take action when needed.

ALSC Training

ACLS is an advanced medical training course designed to help health care professionals and emergency personnel respond quickly and effectively to life-threatening cardiac emergencies. The ACLS course focuses on improving the quality of care provided to patients in cardiac arrest, as well as the skills needed to resuscitate victims of a heart attack. It covers the latest techniques for evaluating, managing, and stabilizing patients in cardiac arrest, including advanced airway management, pharmacology, electrical therapy, and post-resuscitation care. ACLS also provides important skills for identifying and managing stroke victims, including recognizing stroke signs and symptoms, providing rapid assessment of risks and benefits of thrombolytic therapy, recognizing complications of stroke treatment, and providing post-stroke care.

There are several certifications available, including the American Heart Association (AHA) ACLS Provider Course, AHA Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS), AHA Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support (ACLS) Instructor Course, and the International Board of Heart Rhythm Examiners (IBHRE) Clinical Cardiac Electrophysiology Technician Certification. Additionally, many employers recognize the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) Advanced Cardiac Life Support certification. 

BLS Certification

Basic Life Support (BLS) certification is a course that teaches individuals how to respond to life-threatening emergencies. You might think that in order to have the eligibility to take an ACLS course, you must have your Basic Life Support certification, but that actually isn’t the case. 

BLS covers the basics of CPR and other interventions, such as using an AED (automated external defibrillator). The goal of BLS is to provide the skills needed to help someone stay alive until more advanced medical care can be provided. ACLS certification builds on the skills learned in BLS. 

While many medical professionals, such as nurses, doctors, paramedics, and EMTs, get BLS certification, other people also get this certification. This includes first responders, such as firefighters and police officers, and people who work in safety-related fields. Additionally, volunteers who are involved with certain organizations or who have an interest in medical emergencies may also seek BLS certification. 

Most ACLS courses expect the individual to know the basics because the education you receive during ACLS will build upon that basic knowledge. While it isn’t necessary, it’s beneficial to attain a BLS certification beforehand.


ACLS algorithms are a set of guidelines for emergency medical providers, such as paramedics and nurses, to follow when caring for adult patients who are experiencing cardiac or other medical emergencies. ACLS algorithms provide step-by-step instructions on how to assess the patient, provide care, and recognize and respond to life-threatening situations. 

There are bradycardia, cardiac arrest, and tachycardia algorithms, to name a few examples of what you may face. Learning those ACLS algorithms can be the most challenging aspect of an ACLS course, as you must memorize each one. It’s crucial to study each algorithm as much as possible.

The guidelines are based on current evidence-based practices and national standards of care. 

Certification Expiration

The length of time that an Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) certification lasts depends on which organization issued the certification. Generally, ACLS certification is valid for two years from the date it was issued. After two years, a person must retake the course and pass the exam in order to renew their ACLS certification. Some organizations may require the certification to be renewed annually or even more frequently.

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About the Author

Mallory Knee is a freelance writer for multiple online publications where she can showcase her affinity for all things beauty and fashion. She particularly enjoys writing for communities of passionate women who come together for a shared interest and empower one another in the process. In her free time, you can find Mallory trying a fun new dinner recipe, practicing calligraphy, or hanging out with her family.

LTC News Contributor Mallory Knee

Mallory Knee

Contributor since September 25th, 2020

Editor's Note

As we get older, we face many health challenges. If you are a loved one is having a cardiac event having someone with Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) certification present ensures that a highly trained person is acting quickly and efficiently to provide life-saving measures. 

ACLS-trained personnel have knowledge in providing resuscitation, defibrillation, and airway management to help stabilize someone's condition until further medical care can be provided. 

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