If you work in any public safety environment, you may be required to obtain a Basic Life Support certification. Anyone can become BLS-certified, and it can be a huge benefit even if your job doesn’t require you to save lives. In this article, we’ll cover:
- What a BLS certification is
- Who needs to be BLS-certified
- How BLS certification differs from CPR training
- How to become BLS-certified
- Whether or not you can get your BLS certification online
- What you’ll learn in BLS training
- How Much it costs to get your BLS certification
- How to renew your BLS certification
- What to do with your BLS certification
Read on to get the full story.
What Is a BLS Certification?
Basic Life Support refers to a set of skills required to provide on-the-spot medical aid in the event of a cardiovascular emergency. There is no single BLS certification. You can obtain a certification from the American Red Cross or the American Heart Association, each of which is different but covers the same basic life-saving principles.
Anyone can obtain a BLS certification after successfully completing an appropriate course. Courses are offered nationwide on a continual basis and are developed according to clinically recognized safety protocols, such as the cardiac chain of survival. The specific instruction may vary slightly from one location to the next due to differing state standards.
Who Needs to Be BLS-Certified?
Anyone can obtain a Basic Life Support certification, but certain professionals are required to have it. These may include:
- Healthcare providers
- Nursing and medical students
- Police officers
- Paramedics/EMS professionals
- Daycare professionals
Not everyone in the above categories will require BLS certification; the laws vary significantly depending on the state and the organization. Other vocations may also require BLS certification if saving lives is a potential aspect of the job.
Even if you’re not required to be certified, it can still be an excellent move. The process is quick and affordable, and your certification may grant you a competitive edge when applying for many public-facing jobs. Best of all, you’ll be able to confidently take action if you see someone in need, whether on the job or on the town.
Is BLS Training the Same as CPR Training?
Basic Life Support training does include CPR, but BLS courses are more comprehensive, covering topics that go beyond rescue breathing and chest compressions. Think of BLS certification as a more advanced type of CPR certification that’s used by first responders, healthcare providers, and other highly qualified professionals.
A general CPR certification may not be sufficient in an organization that requires Basic Life Support training. If you have any questions, speak with an administrator at your organization to determine which certifications are eligible.
How to Become BLS-Certified
Becoming BLS-certified is easy. You simply have to sign up for and complete an approved Basic Life Support course in your area. You can search for local courses using either of the following resources:
Just select your city and search for courses within your area. You’ll need to sign up online and appear in person for the required training. In order to complete the certification process, you’ll need to demonstrate your proficiency using a manikin device (a human dummy) and complete a short written exam.
A typical class will have one trained instructor overseeing up to 10-12 students, typically utilizing a 2:1 or 3:1 student to manikin ratio, per industry guidelines. The whole process generally takes about 4 hours, which includes about 2 hours of training and 60 to 90 minutes of hands-on practice. The rest of the time may be reserved for breaks. Once you pass the course, you’ll receive your certification card.
Can You Get Your BLS Certification Online?
The AHA and Red Cross do not presently offer online-only BLS certification. Certification requires a trained instructor to assess a student’s skills in real time using a live rescue aid. However, you can typically choose between in-person and blended courses.
An in-person course is completed 100% in the classroom (approx. 4 hours); a blended course includes about 3 hours of online instruction from the comfort of home and up to 1 hour of in-person assessment.
The online coursework consists of a series of interactive modules that you can complete at your leisure. The course materials are still available after the course has been completed, so you can brush up on life-saving principles as needed.
What Is Included in BLS Training?
Basic Life Support training will help you to achieve proficiency in:
- Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)
- Chest compressions, airway management, and breathing (mouth-to-mouth)
- CPR variations between adults, children, and infants
- The cardiac chain of survival
- How to use an automated external defibrillator (AED)
- Ventilation with a barrier device
- Ventilations utilizing a bag valve mask
- Insertion and use of oral and nasal airway adjuncts
- Effective resuscitation protocols for rescue teams
- How to eliminate airway obstructions in choking victims
- How to assess the safety of a rescue situation (e.g. you should never use a defibrillator on someone partially submerged in water)
The purpose of BLS training is to equip you with the tools to help resuscitate or sustain someone who’s experiencing a life-threatening cardiac or respiratory event. If you encounter someone who’s experiencing cardiac arrest, a heart attack, a stroke, a choking episode, or even a drowning event, you’ll know how to respond calmly and effectively.
How Much Does It Cost to Get BLS-Certified?
Depending on the BLS provider and the type of certification (in-class vs. blended), you can typically expect to pay between $60 and $80. This includes the in-person training, online modules (if applicable), and all required course materials.
Some companies will cover or reimburse the cost of BLS certification in cases where such training is required. Speak to an administrator at your organization to find out if your costs are covered.
How Do You Get a BLS Renewal?
A BLS card is typically valid for 2 years. If your card has expired within the last 30 days or is about to expire, you can usually take an abbreviated review course to renew your BLS certification. If your card expired more than 30 days ago, you’ll need to complete the basic BLS course again.
What to Do When You Obtain Your BLS Certification
Once you have your BLS card, you’ll need to keep it in a safe place. Review the training materials on a regular basis, and set a virtual reminder for 30 days before the expiration date. You should also consider investing in an AED, as this will allow you to put your skills to full use if an emergency ever does arise on your watch. You can find discounted AED packages for sale, each of which contains a defibrillator, pads, battery, cabinet, case, and other life-saving essentials.
A BLS certification requires a small investment of your time and money, but it can pay for itself many times over when the unexpected occurs.