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Everything Nurses Need to Know About ACLS, BLS & PALS Certifications

It's a fact that aspiring nurses have to complete a nursing program and take licensing exams, but what about certifications? While requirements for RN positions vary by employer, there are some certifications you may have to get, or that may be worth pursuing to be more competitive.

Take a look at three popular – and sometimes required – certifications for nurses:

BLS (Basic Life Support) Certification

BLS certification is usually a requirement for anyone entering the medical profession, and even those working with the public or with children. It covers the basics of CPR, as well as other lifesaving procedures.

The course is not extensive, but students will learn how to use an AED (automatic external defibrillator), as well as how to help a choking victim.

BLS certification must be renewed every two years.

ACLS (Advanced Cardiac Life Support) Certification

ACLS certification is not always a requirement for nursing positions, but it is a good one to consider (and might be required) if you plan to work in emergency and critical care units.

ACLS courses go beyond what the BLS certification covers, although some of the content is similar, such as how to use an AED. Unlike the BLS, however, ACLS certification courses are almost always exclusively made up of healthcare workers, and a strong medical knowledge is needed. In addition to nurses, you might find paramedics, physicians, and dentists taking the course.

Typically, students in an ACLS course will already be BLS certified. Additional coursework will cover everything from intubation to IV medications to resuscitation procedures and airway management. It can take about two days to complete the class, and students must pass a written and practical exam in order to pass.

Once students earn the ACLS certification, it is good for two years, at which time, they will have to take a renewal course.

ACLS is a strong credential to add to your resume if you're becoming a nurse, especially if you want to work in a fast-paced hospital team.

PALS (Pediatric Advanced Life Support) Certification

As the name suggests, PALS is similar to ACLS, but it is focused on pediatric care. Emergency care can be very different if you're dealing with an infant or small child, which is why this certification focuses on how to administer the various emergency treatments to young patients.

The class covers the same types of topics as ACLS (i.e. airway management, CPR for young patients, etc.). The exam also featured both a written and hands-on practical component.

Those who pass the PALS certification will have to renew it every two years to keep it active.

Depending on your aspirations, a PALS certification can help you stand out if you're seeking positions that involve working with pediatric patients, or even in the general emergency room.

Should you get certified?

Getting your BLS certification is a no-brainer and must be done. As for ACLS and PALS, it will depend on what type of nursing career you plan to pursue, but more certifications can't hurt.

For starters, having additional knowledge on your side is always a good thing since you never know when a patient much have a sudden reaction to medication, or an emergency can happen in front of you at any time.

As far as your resume, adding certifications can make you a more competitive job seeker. It might be the tie-breaking item that sets you apart from another candidate with a similar background, for example.

If you do decide to get certified, the ACLS will have more application than the PALS (unless you're heading into a pediatric nursing career).

No matter which certifications you decide to pursue, consider the time and expense a smart investment into your career. Not only will they make you a stronger, more knowledgeable nursing professional, but it could help you save a life. has partnered with National Health Care Provider Solutions to provide nurses with 100% online accredited online certification and recertification options for BLS, PALS and ACLS. National Health Care Provider Solutions (NHCPS) is a Non-Profit 501(c) organization empowered by the Disque Foundation& The Save A Life Initiative.

Dawn Papandrea is a Staten Island, NY-based freelance writer who specializes in personal finance, parenting, and lifestyle topics. Her work has appeared in Family Circle,, Parents,, and more.



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