We hold doctors in such high regards because they have a lifelong commitment to life saving. But we often forget that we can each be life savers if needed, provided that we’re sufficiently trained and eager to help. Basic life support knowledge allows each and every member of the community to directly improve on the community’s health quality by intervening correctly at the right time.
There is, of course, an immense sense of pride and satisfaction when you’ve directly contributed to the saving of another human’s life.Though uncommon, it isn’t impossible for you to be put in the situation of having to intervene when another person is suffering sudden cardiac arrest, stroke, a heart attack or airway obstruction.
That person’s best chance at life is that basic life support be performed until specialized medical personnel can take over and provide specialized care.
What is Basic Life Support?
American Heart Association statistics reveal that a massive 92 percent of all victims suffering sudden cardiac arrest die before reaching the hospital. And while specialized medical attention is required in order to improve the survival rates of such patients, basic life support is an essential part of the chain of life.
In fact, if more community members knew BLS and would step up in such situations, a significant number of lives could be saved. The same statistics reveal that, in the case of patients receiving basic life support, their survival chances double and even triple.
So what exactly is BLS? Let’s define the concept.
Basic life support (also known as CPR-cardiopulmonary resuscitation) refers to the acts performed by a person attempting to support the breathing and circulation of an unconscious patient. Every such act aims to preserve the patient’s life for as long as possible until professional emergency medical attention is provided.
Although medical personnel is most qualified to perform such acts, anyone may provide CPR in the case of a life-threatening situation.
Basic life support is centered around a series of guidelines, which, despite being somewhat country-specific, focus on the same goals. As compared to ALS (advanced life support), basic life support does not involve using medication or invasive skills.
When providing basic life support, there are three main aspects to consider: the ABC of BLS: Airway, Breathing and Circulation. Although these mnemonics are different around the world, the American Heart Association’s recommendation is to remember CAB so as to emphasize the importance of circulation and maintaining it via chest compressions.
Initial Patient Care and Chain of Survival
Until a patient can be safely transported to a hospital in order to receive the emergency medical attention he requires, basic life support measures improve survival chances considerably.
In the United States, the American Heart Association has provided basic life support protocols designed to be used by certified emergency medical personnel (certified first responders, firefighters, police officers, paramedics, nurses, doctors). The same protocol uses the “chain of survival” sequence in order to ensure the proper resuscitation of collapsed victims.
Chain of Survival links:
- Emergency recognition and activation of medical assistance
- Early bystander basic life support: CPR measures
- Early defibrillator use
- Access to advanced life support and specialized care
As a bystander, you can perform the first three steps, taking into consideration that it may take considerable amounts of time for medical teams to reach you in certain situations.
Depending on the emergency situation you are in, make sure to ensure your safety when aiding the collapsed victim. American Heart Association recommendations include additional steps known as DRS CAB:
- Danger: safely take a trauma patient out of harm’s way (are the patient’s injuries a result of electrocution, burning, drowning?)
- Response identification: is the patient conscious?
- Ask for Help: Remember to call 911 and gather people willing to help. CPR is a strenuous activity and you will need someone to take over when you feel tired.
- Chest Compressions: begin by performing 30 chest compressions followed by 2 breaths (mouth to mouth of mouth to nose) and continue the 30/2 ratio until emergency medical personnel arrives or the patient regains consciousness. Basic cardiac life support is essential and ensuring a patient’s circulation is paramount.
- Airway checks: open the patient’s airways and check from time to time whether the patient’s airway doesn’t become obstructed
- Breathing: check for breathing
- Automated external defibrillator use should be considered whenever such a machine is available (train stations, subway stations, public places, institutions).
Obtaining a Basic Life Support Certification
If your current job requires a BLS certification, the American Heart Association (as well as other providers) offer specialized courses. And while there are no minimum age requirements (as studies suggest that children as young as nine years old are able to not only retain but also perform CPR), body strength is required.
You can choose between classroom and online courses, although even an online course requires its participants to take part in an in-person test session so as to obtain an AHA-issued certification.
The American Heart Association provides an exhaustive list of courses for both healthcare providers and non-medical personnel. Apart from their BLS certification courses for healthcare providers, they also offer courses in pediatric life support, stroke training, workplace training and even offer courses for BLS and ALS instructors to-be.
Healthcare providers are offered two online options for the basic life support certification course. Although both courses cover the same curriculum, the content is delivered differently with each course. While the first focuses on eSimulation and real-time interactions with patient scenarios, the second delivers content through question and answer sessions and interactive mini-games and videos.
There are plenty of materials offered to course applicants. If you are taking classroom certification courses, make sure to check with the Training Center personnel as they often offer course materials and a basic life support study guide. Additional information can be found in any medical book.
The American Heart Association also provides a basic life support study guide which goes over each aspect of cardiopulmonary resuscitation and patient care. You can also find other free study guides online but make sure to always review the AHA’s most recent guidelines.
Basic Life Support Courses: Format and Content
Each course you undergo has to be compliant with the most recent guidelines for CPR and Emergency Cardiovascular care made public by the American Heart Association.
Normally, your course will go through the key changes in BLS and CPR and make references to recent peer-reviewed studies. Your training will also involve learning and applying the principles of the chain of survival as well as practicing 1-rescuer CPR and 2-rescuer CPR (including automatic external defibrillator procedures) for adults, children and infants.
BLS certification courses will also present the differences between rescue techniques in the case of adults, children or infants as well as bag mask techniques, rescue breathing, relief, choking and CPR with advanced airways.
Become a Basic Life Support Instructor
Apart from basic life support courses, the American Heart Association also supports those wishing to become BLS and ALS instructors.
At first, inquire as to the due diligence. Consult with an AHA-affiliated Training Center and find out whether new instructors are being sought out. Check the American Heart Association’s instructor network and become acquainted with any details you may require.
As opposed to other types of courses, instructor courses have a minimum age requirement of 16 years (for the BLS and Heartsaver courses) and 18 years for advanced life support, pediatric life support and PEARS.
There are some prerequisites to attending such instructor courses. Aside from the aforementioned minimum age requirements, you must also have a license or certification in a specific medical occupation that requires those skills are required in your provider’s scope of practice.
Additionally, you already have to have completed the specific courses of the particular discipline you wish to start instructing. Only those with a current AHA provider status are eligible to then apply for Instructor courses.
If you’re prepared to commence your training, the first step is to complete your candidate application which has to be submitted with your local Training Center. Be sure to complete the application before enrolling in any instructor courses!
After having enrolled and completed the Instructor Essential discipline-specific online course, print your certificate and proceed to completing the classroom instructor course.
Once all these steps are completed, you only need to teach your first life support course. The American Heart Association requires that your first-ever course be monitored by specialized personnel and that this course must take place within the first six months after having completed your Instructor Course.
Additional monitoring may be required if you’re aiming to become a Training Center coordinator.
Remember, lifesaving measures and basic life support can be used regardless of who is in danger and where you are in the world. And apart from the personal satisfaction, becoming certified in basic life support may help provide you with advancement options.
Although many careers (apart from those of firefighters, police officers, doctors, emergency medical personnel, red cross volunteers and nurses) don’t require you to be BLS certified, having the certification could certainly open new advancement avenues with your employer.