BLS - Basic Life Support
- Cost varies
- Renews every 2 years
Basic Life Support (BLS) training teaches fundamental life support skills that healthcare professionals use to provide medical aid during a cardiovascular emergency. BLS certification is required for all registered nurses and most hospitals require RNs, and other healthcare workers, to obtain certification through an American Heart Association (AHA) accredited course. Basic life support skills include CPR, automated external defibrillator (AED) use, and ventilations with pre-hospital and in-facility tracks available.
The AHA’s Basic Life Support certification for healthcare professionals’ course is designed specifically for nurses and other healthcare professionals who must know how to perform CPR and other basic cardiovascular life support skills in various in-facility and prehospital settings. Nurses must either be nursing students or already registered as nurses to qualify for the healthcare professionals’ course.
Two course options are available to earn BLS certification, blended learning or in-person classroom training. Both options teach the same skills and result in an AHA BLS Healthcare Provider Course Completion Card.
Classroom BLS is an instructor-led, hands-on format fully completed in an in-person classroom environment. This course teaches basic life support skills to both single-rescuers and teams in prehospital and in-facility environments and focuses on CPR and team dynamics. To sign up for instructor-led courses, students must locate an AHA Training Center in their area.
Completion time: Full Instructor-led BLS courses take approximately 4.5 hours to complete, including skills practice and testing.
Cost: Determined by the AHA Training Center but averages $60 and $80. This cost may or may not include the BLS Provider Manual, which costs $17.50 through the AHA.
Blended Learning HeartCode® BLS combines an online portion and a hands-on session at an AHA Training Center. The online portion utilizes various eLearning processes, including eSimulations, dramatizations, animations, interactive activities and self-directed learning to impart BLS skills and knowledge. After completing the online portion, students must pass an online exam with a score of 84% or better to receive a certification of completion, which they use to enroll in the hands-on skills session/in-person portion.
Completion Time: Online portion takes approximately 1 to 2 hours but the actual time varies based on the student’s self-assessment and knowledge of the cognitive material. Instructor-led hands-on skills sessions take 2 to 3 hours depending on the experience of the student.
Cost: $32.50 online portion / In-person portion varies by provider but typically ranges between $55 and $80.
Students taking the Blended Learning HeartCode BLS must either purchase or be issued a license for the online portion. They activate their license at eLearning and complete the online portion of this course. Upon completion, students receive a certificate of completion they must present for enrollment in an instructor-led hands-on skills session. For Classroom BLS courses, students simply contact an AHA Training Center in their area to sign up for the next available course.
All nurses are required to obtain Basic Life Support certification, but this doesn’t have to be done before they apply for staff jobs. Hospitals and healthcare systems offer these certifications to their employees and most job offers indicate that they must obtain their BLS before starting on the unit. Newly hired nurses work with the unit and hospital educators to schedule their certification courses. However, travel nurses and per diem nurses are expected to already have BLS certification because they’re supposed to be ready to hit the ground running.
BLS certification is valid for two years. A BLS Renewal Course takes about 3 hours to complete when taking the Classroom BLS option, which includes skills practice and testing. If a healthcare professional’s BLS completion card is about to expire or expired within the past 30 days, they need only take the condensed review course for renewal. However, if the card expired more than 30 days ago, they’ll need to complete the entire basic BLS course again.
The AHA offers continuing education (CE) credits and continuing medical education (CME) for some of its courses. The American Nurses Credentialing Center, a subsidiary of the American Nurses Association, allows a maximum of one contact hour as CE credit to nurses taking the AHA’s Blended Learning HeartCode BLS Courses.
The American Red Cross also offers BLS for Healthcare Providers courses that meet various certification and licensing requirements. These courses are consistent with AHA Guidelines and offer in-person classes or blended learning that combines online coursework and in-person training. However, the ARC course isn’t as widely accepted by hospitals so always confirm with employers whether they recognize ARC-obtained BLS certification.
Basic Life Support certification is required of all RNs. Depending on where they work or would like to work within a hospital, other AHA certifications may be helpful or even required. Good certifications to consider after obtaining BLS certification include:
Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support (ACLS) certification, primarily required for RNs working in ICUs or any area with critically ill adults.
Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) certification, often required for RNs who work with pediatric patients.
Pediatric Emergency Assessment, Recognition and Stabilization (PEARS) certification, recommended for RNs and other medical professionals who aren’t specializing in pediatrics but might encounter pediatric emergencies.
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Frequently asked questions
Is BLS the same as CPR?
BLS training includes CPR but also offers a higher level of medical training specifically for healthcare professionals.
Can you earn Basic Life Support certification online?
Although BLS certifications are available online, most hospitals require RNs to obtain their BLS certification through an AHA-accredited course. Since the AHA doesn’t currently offer or endorse any online BLS certification courses, RNs shouldn’t take an online course as it likely won’t be accepted by employers in hospitals and other healthcare settings.
Do the AHA’s BLS courses include first aid?
AHA’s BLS courses don’t include first aid, but the AHA does offer various courses that teach emergency first aid response.
Is BLS certification a prerequisite for ACLS certification?
The AHA doesn’t require students taking ACLS courses to have a current BLS Provider card, but they’re expected to have proficient BLS skills. However, AHA Training Centers may require their students to have current BLS Provider cards.
Is the AHA BLS course completion card accepted nationwide?
Yes, the AHA BLS course completion card is accepted in all 50 states.