1.) Start studying more than one day before your class
This might sound like a no brainer, but, I am never surprised with the amount of colleagues that are so nervous before class. I ask, “did you study?”, their response, “No” Well. . . Then I can see why you are nervous and I would be too. The content that is covered in these advanced life support classes is just that, advanced. Something that takes time and noting that can be crammed for the night before. With the ACLS certification come a TON of responsibility and an expectation that if you are in a cardiac arrest situation, you know what to do. At that moment of a patient’s care, you need to be confident in your knowledge and skills. Literally, someone’s life is on the line if you are not prepared.
2.) Know your algorithms
Again, it might seem like another no brainer, but, something this is something I have noticed frequently being overlooked when the material is being put into practice. At any point in a cardiac arrest situation, or medical emergency, you should be able to answer the question, “what case scenario am I in?” and “where am I at in my algorithm?”. Also, knowing the algorithms like the back of your hand will help you immensely when you are taking both the written and verbal exams.
3.) Set yourself up for success while working
When you have your ACLS class scheduled, keep the tri-fold, pocket size, algorithm charts in your pocket at work. This resource comes free with your ACLS book, or can be purchased separately online. Placing the educational material on your person at all times will naturally lead to you passively studying. It also will come in handy as a quick reference for when you are caring for your patients. Leading you to be able to make a clinical practice connection, to the material, that will come in handy when it is test time. You will be surprised how much time before class you will have found yourself studying and how quickly this time adds up.
4.) Shadow an ER/ICU nurse for the day and pick their brain
If you are an RN that is required to be ACLS certified, but you are not frequently in a scenario where you get to put your knowledge into practice, seek out the opportunity. Both the ER and ICU are places where ACLS skills are part of an everyday routine. Shadowing a fellow colleague will help you apply the text into practice. Also, you will be able to pick the brain of a nurse who does this everyday and who has the ability to further explain concepts that you are not fully grasping yet.
5.) Search YouTube for code simulations to help practice
YouTube can be a phenomenal tool for medical education. Yes it is not perfect and has some pitfalls, but, a resource that could help you to help pass the verbal/skills portion of the exam. Search, “code blue simulation” and watch a couple of the videos and search for the good, the bad and the ugly. Reflect on it, and think to yourself what you would have done the same or differently in the situation.
6.) Don’t forget about: CO2 Monitoring, Stroke, MI and Therapeutic Hypothermia
Do not push these sections aside, they are in the book for a reason. You can safely assume that if there is enough reason for the American Heart Association to make chapters or sections in the book about a topic; they are indeed important and will show up on the written and verbal exam as well.
On a side note…
DO NOT get certified by someone in a coffee shop
I believe that this is not ethically responsible of any practitioner to gain their certification in a fast 15 minute “class”. When you hold an ACLS certification, you are saying that you have gone through all of the requirements outlined by the American Heart Association and that you hold the skill, knowledge and ability to act in a medical emergency. The difference between your patient having a good or bad outcome could depend on how seriously you take this class.
With that being said, study hard, and you will do just fine.