Basic Life Support for Healthcare Providers

Many people who work in the healthcare field—or who may be the first on the scene of an accident—need a higher level of CPR training for healthcare providers.

The American Heart Association, the Red Cross, and many other providers offer CPR training at this level—and it’s often called “BLS” rather than “CPR” training. That’s because this level of training is more in-depth, and includes CPR but may not be limited to it.

However, some providers continue to refer to these classes as CPR training for healthcare professionals—which can lead to some confusion.

What is basic life support?

There’s a bit of confusion surrounding what we call CPR certification for healthcare providers, rather than the lay public.

The term “basic life support” is typically used to refer to a range of non-invasive emergency measures taken to save a patient’s life. These include but are not limited to CPR, stabilizing bone fractures, immobilization of the spine, bleeding control, and basic first aid. So that’s confusing.

Another confusing factor is that in the UK, the term “BLS” is used to refer to CPR training much more generally—not just to a level reserved for healthcare providers.

No matter what it’s called, though, these classes for healthcare providers focus on training professional medical providers to deliver emergency care for cardiac and respiratory crises in adults, children, and infants.

These are some of the most deadly sudden health crises a patient can face. And at the healthcare-provider level, classes focus on a team-based response, critical thinking and problem solving in emergency situations, and real-life, case-based scenarios to help students understand how to deliver this care both inside and outside the hospital.

What does “for healthcare providers” mean?

It doesn’t matter whether the course you’re considering taking is called CPR or BLS—as long as it teaches you the skills you need to deliver CPR on a professional level.

BLS programs for healthcare providers teach the same skills you’d learn in a CPR class, but at a deeper level. They also focus more on delivering care as part of a team, rather than working on your own. Some of the things you can expect to learn include:

  • CPR (delivered singly and as part of a team)
  • Use of an AED
  • How to conduct a primary assessment
  • Advanced airway management
  • How to use an Ambu Bag
  • First aid for choking in conscious and unconscious victims
  • Child and infant CPR

Not every program is the same—there is no national regulatory or certifying body that governs CPR and BLS classes. However, classes that follow the American Heart Association guidelines should offer similar content. 

What are the steps for basic life support?

When you’re responding to a medical emergency, you may find yourself treating a victim of heart attack, cardiac arrest, respiratory issues, drug overdose, a major accident, or any other illness or injury. 

Many aspects of basic life support are appropriate for some situations and not others—but there are some high-level steps that should be performed in almost any emergency situation. These include:

  • Perform a primary assessment of the scene

It’s crucial, as an emergency rescuer, that you have the ability to size up a situation quickly and effectively. Things you should take into account include:

  • Unsafe conditions. Do you see downed electrical lines? Traffic? Is anything on fire? Are there any other immediate dangers?
  • What you’re wearing. Do you have any personal protective equipment? Goggles? Rubber gloves? Are you risking exposure to pathogens?
  • Number and state of the patients. How many people are sick or injured? Do they look sick? Is there bleeding? Is anyone unconscious?
  • Other people on the scene. Is there anyone else on the scene who can help? A layperson or someone with medical knowledge? Do you need them to call 911?
  • Assess the patient

Once you understand the general situation, you’ll need to assess the patient’s health. While your actions may vary depending on the nature of the illness or injury, most assessments start with these steps:

  • Check the patient’s consciousness. Are they alert, confused, or completely unconscious?
  • Check their breathing and pulse.
  • Provide emergency care

This is where your training comes in. With BLS training, you may find yourself delivering CPR either alone or with a team, providing rescue breaths, using an AED, or dealing with an obstructed airway. Some BLS courses also provide in-depth first aid training.

Who needs BLS certification for healthcare providers?

You probably don’t need this level of training if you’re a layperson. You need it if you’re going to use CPR in a professional setting.

The professions that most commonly need BLS for healthcare providers include:

  • Doctors, nurses, and medical personnel
  • Emergency responders
  • Firefighters
  • Police officers
  • Lifeguards
  • Nursing home employees

However, we’re also starting to see other employers requiring their employees to have a higher level of CPR certification. If you’re in one of the following professions, your employer might also want you to get this type of certification:

  • Teachers and coaches
  • Daycare providers
  • Camp counselors
  • Bus drivers
  • Safety managers
  • Anyone who works in a high-risk environment

 The bottom line is that, depending on the provider, the class you need may be called CPR or BLS. But if you’re in the United States, “BLS” is more likely to be used for a higher-level class, while “CPR” may be used more generally for both.

When in doubt, go with the BLS certification—as chances are it’s the more in-depth option. You’ll never get penalized by your employer for having a higher level of certification than they need. If you don’t want to leave it to chance, however, it’s a good idea to call the provider to find out what’s taught in the class you’re considering.

Our BLS certification course provides training in the advanced CPR techniques you need to know as a healthcare provider—as well as training in topics such as basic life support for stroke, shock, drowning, and drug overdoses; comprehensive first aid; and reducing the risk of bloodborne pathogen exposure.