• ALS vs. BLS: Which Certification Is Right for Me?

    What is BLS?

    BLS, which stands for Basic Life Support, is a set of life-saving medical procedures performed in the early stages of an emergency. These resuscitation techniques are generally administered by a first responder, healthcare provider, or any individual on the scene who has basic medical training. The goal is to simply maintain the life functions of a person who is having a medical emergency, like cardiac arrest or respiratory failure, until more advanced medical care can be provided. BLS may sometimes be referred to as BCLS, or Basic Cardiac Life Support, but there is no difference between BLS and BCLS.

    What is ALS?

    ALS stands for Advanced Life Support and, as the name indicates, it takes BLS techniques to the next level with more sophisticated interventions and procedures. The goal is to stabilize critical patients who may have suffered a life-saving event like cardiac arrest, acute coronary syndrome, or stroke, while preparing them for transport to a hospital in a pre-hospital setting, like an ambulance or another emergency vehicle. ALS may sometimes be referred to as ACLS, or Advanced Cardiac Life Support, but there is no difference between ALS and ACLS. However, the American Red Cross ALS course emphasizes providing high-quality care and integrating psychomotor skills with critical thinking and problem-solving to achieve the best possible patient outcomes.

    What is the Difference between BLS and ALS?

    BLS is often the first line of response, and ALS comes into play when more advanced care is required. While both provide life-saving techniques during an emergency, they have key differences, including the level of care, the training required, the equipment used, and the treatment setting. For example, BLS focuses on giving immediate care at the scene in order to stabilize and support life functions through basic techniques like CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation), rescue breaths, and/or the use of an AED (automated external defibrillator) until help arrives. ALS, on the other hand, requires a higher level of care, like advanced airway management, IV access, medication administration, and advanced cardiac life support. Understand the differences between ACLS vs. BLS.

    Do You Take BLS or ALS first?

    Since ALS is more advanced, you need to be proficient in basic lifesaving techniques before moving on. Therefore, it’s required that you complete BLS certification prior to beginning ALS certification, even though ALS generally includes a quick refresher of BLS course material.

    Which Class Do I Need?

    • Who Needs BLS? For those who don’t require more advanced training, but just need to learn basic life-saving skills, BLS training is recommended. For example, teachers, coaches, lifeguards, personal trainers, and others may benefit from having BLS knowledge.
    • Who Needs ALS? This advanced type of certification is designed specifically for healthcare professionals, like physicians, nurses, anesthesiologists, paramedics, dentists, and others who need to manage more complex medical emergencies.

    Where Do I Get ALS and BLS Certifications?

    American Red Cross can help you complete your ALS certification and/or BLS certification quickly and easily. Our classes let you combine online work with hands-on training, so they fit just about any schedule and learning style. In addition, our adaptive learning functionality allows you to follow a personalized learning path that gives you the option to test out of a lesson, or test out of specific topics within a lesson, resulting in reduced overall class time.

    For more than a century, Red Cross has prepared people to respond to emergencies of all sizes, from the everyday to the large disaster. Join the millions we train every year and learn the learn skills that can save a life. Find your class and sign up today.