Things Nurses Need to Know About ACLS and PALS Certifications

Even though there are already around 3 million nurses registered in the US, that number is only expected to grow with the growing population of the elderly. In that sense, choosing a nursing career can turn out to be rather rewarding in more ways than one. However, in order to excel at this job and find security in the nursing profession, it’s important to obtain adequate certification. In general, the most necessary and highly regarded certifications include ACLS and PALS. Of course, as a nurse, you might need both, or one or the other; it all depends on the specifics of your job as well as the work environment. That said, let’s look into these certifications in more detail.

What Are ACLS and PALS Certifications for?

Essentially, ACLS stands for Advanced Cardiac Life Support, while PALS stands for Pediatric Advanced Life Support.

ACLS certification is an advanced course of the BLS, meaning Basic Life Support. In that sense, it can be extremely valuable for nurses who work or plan to work in intensive care or focus on patients that suffer from cardiovascular issues.

On the other hand, PALS, as the name suggests, is important for nurses who work with children and/or in a pediatric unit.

What is ACLS Certification for Nurses?

As mentioned, ACLS covers an advanced course of Basic Life Support (BLS). If a nurse works with adults, it’s not uncommon that they will have to complete both of these courses, even though there are many overlaps between the two.

So, what does ACLS certification entail? During the course, nurses will have to review the essentials of Basic Life Support such as proper administration of CPR, ventilation skills, use of an AED, as well as master the ability to spot and manage cardiac arrest. Aside from these skills, the course also involves the advanced management of airways together with the knowledge to recognize a stroke and deal with it accordingly. Ultimately, this course also focuses on the much-needed communication skills that a nurse needs to have when dealing with patients who are going through these situations.

What is PALS Certification for Nurses?

Children have to be treated differently compared to adults in life-threatening situations. Therefore, nurses who work with children and infants can benefit a lot from PALS certification. This particular course involves the same core skills as ACLS, but with a focus on kids, their needs, and physiology. The nurses will learn how to recognize and deal with a cardiac arrest in children as well as other cardiovascular problems. Furthermore, this certification covers the use of a child’s AED and, just like ACLS, also pays a great deal of attention to teaching proper communication skills when dealing with children.

When communication skills are concerned, this is something very important for nurses who want to specialize in pediatrics. After all, children can’t always communicate the things they feel well and are sometimes even affected by trauma and some other issues that nurses should be able to recognize.

In general, this particular certification is only required for nurses who work with children specifically, but some hospitals may require their nurses to obtain it if they work in units such as ER where they can have a child patient as well.

How to Obtain Required Nursing Certifications?

Depending on the policy of the hospital where you work, you might be required to go through in-person training sessions in order to obtain ACLS and PALS certifications. However, there are hospitals that support online learning, with more of them changing their policy due to the current pandemic situation. In that sense, it’s also possible to obtain these certifications online.

Keep in mind that once you get your ACLS and/or PALS certification, it’s not a done and gone thing. These certifications have to be renewed every two years. And each renewal provides detailed testing to ensure that you’re still on top of all the information you learned during the previous course.

In order to make sure that you’re up-to-date with the current protocols and procedures, you can also take a practice exam. The material that will be covered in these exams depends on the current American Heart Association standards. These standards are also changeable, which is precisely why retaking the course is so important for your nursing profession. Fortunately, the possibility to do this online allows the working nurses to renew their certification at their own pace.

Even though we haven’t discussed BLS certification in detail, this is a course that’s required for all nurses, regardless of where they work or the age of their patients. Once you have your certification in Basic Life Support, you should talk to your superior to determine what type of certification you need next; whether it’s ACLS, PALS, or both.