People often ask, what is the difference between BLS, or basic life support for healthcare provider level courses and Heartsaver, or lay-responder types of CPR certification courses. CPR training is valuable for anyone and it is essential to understand the difference between these two types of certification courses so that when you take a CPR course you ensure that you are correctly enrolled and obtain the level of training and certification that you need.
There are many different organizations that offer these types of CPR certification courses. The two largest are the American Heart Association and American Red Cross. These providers assist with studies and research on the science and skills necessary for emergency cardiovascular care and have classes throughout the world. In addition to the American Heart and American Red Cross there are additional agencies that offer similar courses based on the same science. If you are required to take a class for employment, one of the first things to check is if there are requirements or stipulations on the certifying agency they require. Below we will describe two of the more common courses that are offered and required for the public.
Basic Life Support (BLS) Courses
BLS stands for Basic Life Support, this is a course designed for those who are current or aspiring healthcare providers such as nurses, EMTs, first responders, nurses, etc. In this class you will learn both one and two person CPR/AED skills for adults, children and infants while using various breathing barrier devices. You will also learn how to clear the airway of a conscious and unconscious adult, child or infant. Finally, you will learn how to use an automated external defibrillator (AED).
Learning about the signs and symptoms for respiratory and cardiac arrest as well as strokes and other health issues is another key focus for BLS courses. You will learn how to recognize and respond to life-threatening emergencies using advanced interventions and the proper equipment. This course is taught under the assumption that you may eventually be called upon to use these skills in an emergency situation. Emphasis on working together in a team environment is stressed in the Basic Life Support class while also understanding the skills needed to respond alone, until further help arrives.
In general, a BLS course is for healthcare providers, but anyone is welcome to register for and complete the class. There are no pre-requisites, however this course does not certify individuals in basic first aid. The class must be retaken every two years in order to maintain certification. To pass the class, you must successfully demonstrate the skills you have learned to the instructor and pass a multiple choice exam. The length of the course is generally around 4 hours long.
For those advanced healthcare providers there are additional certification courses that may be necessary to take. These courses are generally for those currently employed in healthcare and have advanced tactics. These courses may include Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) and Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) in addition to other options.
Heartsaver (Lay Responder) Courses
Heartsaver or lay responder courses will teach you almost everything that the BLS course will teach you. However, you will not learn about the more advanced techniques and barrier devices that health care providers may use. This course is generally designed for those who are not in the health care field, such as babysitters, nannies, foster parents and others in similar types of industries. This course is often accompanied with a first aid certification that is required for these types of jobs. The term ‘Heartsaver’ is used by the American Heart Association, ‘lay-responder’ is the term the American Red Cross utilizes. Though the name is slightly different, the science and skills of the course are largely the same.
The Heartsaver Course will also teach you basic care for emergencies like breathing difficulties, heart emergencies, injuries and sudden illnesses until emergency medical responders arrive. You will learn how to properly use an AED as well while administering CPR. There is no written test required to pass a Heartsaver course but the skills presented in class must be demonstrated properly to obtain a certification card. Emphasis is placed on responding outside of a healthcare system and how to recognize, respond and treat victims usually without additional help. The length of the class may vary based on the agency and type of course you take, but generally this CPR course is around 3 hours long. Heartsaver certification cards are valid for two years, just as the BLS is. Either course is offered from both the American Heart Association and American Red Cross as well as other providers. If you are needing a certification for employment, it is best to get the exact requirements required before registering for a course.