Important Things to Know About BLS Renewal
Important Things to Know About BLS Renewal
by Greta Kviklyte
Life Saver, AMC
Co-authored by Kim Murray, RN, M.S.
posted on Dec 23, 2021, at 4:13 am
Basic Life Support (BLS) includes a variety of emergency lifesaving techniques and tools—including cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and automated external defibrillators (AED)—that are offered to people experiencing life-threatening situations, such as an obstructed airway (choking), respiratory distress, and cardiac arrest.
A person who is trained in BLS, such as a healthcare provider or first responder, is expected to have a range of skills as well as the knowledge of how to apply these skills in a variety of situations for people of different ages, including infants, young children, and adults.
In this article, we discuss important things to know about the BLS renewal process, including how often a healthcare provider should renew their certification, common mistakes made during BLS and CPR training courses, and helpful tips to prepare for the BLS renewal course.
BLS Certification Basics: Who Needs It, How to Get It, and How Often It Should Be Renewed
Any healthcare provider, first responder, or medical professional must be certified in BLS. Courses offering BLS for healthcare providers cover a variety of topics, including:
- How and when to perform CPR for adults, children, and infants
- How and when to use an AED
- How to relieve foreign body airway obstruction in adults and infants
- How to provide effective ventilation using barrier devices
- Essential life-saving practices, including the Chain of Survival and scene safety
- The difference between single-rescuer and multi-rescuer during CPR
Many healthcare providers choose or, depending on their professional roles, are required to become trained in additional higher-level certifications such as Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) and Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS).
Do Non-Medical Professionals Need BLS Certification?
For non-medical professionals and laypeople, BLS and other advanced lifesaving certifications aren’t necessary. However, CPR and basic first aid are extremely valuable skills for anyone to know. Individuals who choose to learn CPR and basic first aid could end up saving a life someday—including the life of someone they love or work with.
Consider these important facts from the American Heart Association:
- Every year, over 350,000 cardiac arrests (heart attacks) occur outside the hospital—most of these (70%) occur in private homes or residences, followed by public settings like parks, malls, and airports (18.8%) and nursing homes (11.2%)
- According to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OHSA), about 10,000 cardiac arrests happen in the workplace every year
- Effective CPR provided immediately after a person experiences cardiac arrest can double or even triple a person’s chance of survival
Unfortunately, data from the 2017 Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics show that fewer than half (46%) of all people who suffer cardiac arrest outside the hospital ever receive bystander CPR. And according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as many as 9 out of 10 people who have a heart attack outside the hospital die. By encouraging more people to learn how and when to do CPR, these survival odds can improve.
Out-of-Hospital Cardiac Arrest, Women, and CPR
Here’s another interesting fact from the CDC:
Women are less likely than men to receive bystander CPR if they experience cardiac arrest in a public setting. This could be due to many factors:
- Some people don’t realize women can have heart attacks
- Women often have atypical warning signs and symptoms of cardiac arrest, including shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, and back pain or jaw pain
- Potential rescuers may worry about injuring a woman when giving CPR or being accused of sexual assault
- People may mistakenly think women are being “dramatic” or “faking it”
Overall, it’s clear that raising awareness about the benefits of CPR and how to provide it is an important public health strategy, especially given the annual incidence of heart attacks—which sadly takes the lives of more people than prostate cancer, flu, pneumonia, car accidents, HIV/AIDS, firearms, and house fires combined.
Do Your Loved Ones Know This About CPR?
- While formal CPR training can certainly help someone feel more prepared in the event of an emergency, a person does not have to be specially certified to give CPR to someone in cardiac or respiratory distress
- CPR performed by non-medical professionals and bystanders does not have to involve any breathing into a person’s mouth
- When performing CPR, people should aim to perform 100 chest compressions per minute—that’s as fast as the beat of the song “Stayin’ Alive”
Where to Receive BLS Training
A variety of organizations provide formal BLS training, including the American Red Cross, the American Heart Association, and Advanced Medical Certification. Healthcare providers may complete their BLS renewal online or in-person, depending on the certifying organization.
To ensure that their BLS certification will be accepted, medical professionals should check with their employer or organization for any specific requirements.
How Often Should A Healthcare Provider Renew Their BLS Certification?
BLS certifications must be renewed every two years. This is to ensure essential lifesaving skills and knowledge are retained, which can help improve outcomes for people suffering from life-threatening emergencies.
It’s also important to consider that failure to maintain an active BLS certification could result in consequences in a healthcare provider’s workplace, including temporary suspension.
Common Mistakes People Make During BLS Certification and BLS Renewal Courses
It’s helpful to be aware of common mistakes people make while providing basic life support, as well as mistakes frequently made by students taking BLS certification or renewal courses. Avoiding these mistakes will ensure that healthcare providers’ skills remain effective and increase the chances of positive outcomes when and if a healthcare provider must provide emergency medical treatment to someone suffering from cardiac arrest, choking, or respiratory distress.
Common BLS mistakes include:
- Forgetting to ensure scene safety before attending to the patient
- Forgetting to call 911 immediately upon finding someone in distress
- Not adequately delegating tasks to other people who can provide assistance (e.g., calling emergency services, finding the AED, etc.)
- Not utilizing the multiple rescuer technique if it is available (important for reducing rescuer fatigue and ensuring effective lifesaving techniques are used)
- Not maintaining the correct speed and/or depth of chest compressions
- Not allowing the chest to fully recoil during CPR prior to performing the next chest compression
- Not having proper body mechanics while performing CPR (e.g., leaning off to the side of a victim instead of being directly over the victim during chest compressions)
- Bending the arms during chest compressions
- If performing rescue breathing, not remembering to open the airway by performing the head tilt/chin lift technique and/or not creating a firm seal around the person’s nose or mouth with the bag valve mask
In addition to errors made while performing lifesaving skills, students should also take care to avoid common mistakes within the course itself which may impede successful course completion. These mistakes include rushing during the test, not carefully reading each question on the test, and not asking the instructor clarifying questions that could otherwise help ensure subject competency.
Quick Reference: How to Perform CPR
These instructions are for single-rescuer medical professionals who have undergone BLS training. Non-medical professionals and bystanders do not need to perform rescue breathing—chest compressions only.
- Check scene safety and ensure the person needs help. If available, put on personal protective equipment (PPE) like gloves.
- Confirm the victim is unresponsive by using the shout-tap-shout method.
- If the person does not respond and isn’t breathing (or only gasping), call 911 and get any available equipment, including an AED, a bag valve mask, and/or a barrier device. If you are not alone, tell someone to call 911 and get these items for you.
- Ensure the person is on their back on a firm surface.
- Give 30 chest compressions:
- Two hands on the chest
- Shoulders directly over hands
- Elbows straight
- Compress to at least 2 inches at a rate of 100 to 120 beats per minute
- Allow the chest to fully recoil (return to its normal position) before performing the next compression
6. Give 2 rescue breaths:
- Open the airway using a head-tilt/chin-lift technique
- Give each rescue breath for one second, watching to make sure the chest rises (if the chest doesn’t rise, tilt the head and ensure a proper seal before trying a second breath—there could be an airway obstruction if the chest still doesn’t rise)
7. Continue giving 30 chest compressions and 2 breaths until help or an AED arrives.
Quick Reference: How to Perform the Abdominal Thrust Technique
The abdominal thrust technique is to be used when a non-pregnant adult or child over age one is choking. Before initiating the abdominal thrust technique, ensure the person is choking by observing for signs and symptoms (e.g., the universal sign of choking/hands at the throat, noisy or difficulty breathing, inability to talk, laugh, or cry, weak or ineffective cough, flushed skin that could be bluish or pale; you can also ask, “Are you choking?” and look to see if the person nods).
- Tell the person you are going to help.
- Stand behind the person with your knees slightly bent and your feet staggered to improve your balance. If it is a child, kneel behind them.
- Wrap your arms around the person’s waist.
- Make a fist with one hand and put it slightly above the person’s belly button.
- Grasp your fist with your other hand.
- Press hard into the person’s abdomen with a quick upward movement.
- Perform 6 to 10 abdominal thrusts until the object is dislodged.
- If the person passes out, begin CPR.
Note: the American Red Cross recommends a “five and five” technique by alternating between five back blows and five abdominal thrusts until the object blocking the airway is dislodged, or until the person passes out.
Quick Reference: How to Use an Automated External Defibrillator (AED)
AEDs are intended for non-breathing adults and children aged 8 or older who weigh at least 55 pounds.
- Check scene safety and ensure the person needs help.
- If you’re not alone, ask a bystander to call 911. If you don’t have an AED, ask a bystander to get one for you.
- Initiate CPR until the AED becomes available.
- As soon as an AED becomes available, turn it on and follow the prompts. If you’re not alone, one person can continue performing CPR while the other person gets the AED ready.
- Remove all clothing covering the victim’s chest. If necessary, wipe the chest dry.
- Attach the AED pads as instructed, depending on whether the victim is an adult or a child. The pad packets will have diagrams to show you how.
- Make sure the pad connector cable is connected to the AED.
- Prepare to allow the AED to analyze the victim’s heart rhythm by making sure no one is touching the victim—say “CLEAR!” in a loud and commanding voice.
- If the AED determines a shock is needed, make sure no one is touching the victim (say “CLEAR!” in a loud and commanding voice) and press the “shock” button to deliver the shock.
- After the shock is delivered and the AED determines no shock is advised, immediately restart giving CPR, starting with chest compressions
Preparing For Your BLS Renewal: 3 Tips for Success
1. Get prepared to get hands-on. Many of the skills learned in BLS courses involve physical techniques such as the abdominal thrust maneuver and CPR. Practicing these skills is important for helping you prepare for real-life emergencies, where fast, accurate action is imperative.
Be sure to practice your physical skills even if you are taking your BLS certification course completely online.
2. If you’re not sure about something, ask. Developing mastery and familiarity with BLS subject matter can make the difference between life and death. Students should never hesitate to ask their BLS course instructor questions about the course material. Chances are, many people will have similar questions and would benefit from further clarification.
3. Choose a reputable organization for your BLS certification course. You have many choices when it comes to BLS certification and renewals, so be sure to select a company known for offering high-quality training and support.
In an effort to provide quality, cost-effective resources for our students, Advanced Medical Certification course materials are based on the latest best practice resources, including the International Liaison Committee on Resuscitation (ILCOR) 2020-2025 Edition ACLS Provider Handbook. Our courses are also eligible for continuing medical education (CME) credits and can be completed in the convenience and privacy of one’s own home or workplace.
Our website is one of fewer than 1% of sites on the internet endorsed by HONCode, a UN chartered non-governmental agency that seeks to ensure quality health information is shared for patients, providers, and the public.
AMC proudly features a 98% national acceptance rate. In the unlikely scenario that your employer does not accept our certification, we’re happy to offer a full refund.
If you’re a healthcare provider, first responder, or medical student, it’s important to ensure your BLS certification—and your basic lifesaving skills—are up-to-date. To begin comprehensive and cost-effective training for yourself or your workforce, or to learn more about BLS recertification online, contact Advanced Medical Certification today. Share a story of starting your BLS certification.