ACLS stands for Advanced Cardiac Life Support. The 2 day course are 8 hours on both days, and come at a hefty cost of $325 per individual (cheaper at group rates). It teaches you how to manage cardiopulmonary emergency and situations, giving you more skills than basic CPR, but also advanced airway management, reading EKGs, debrillation/pacing/cardioversion as well as administration of drugs to restore normal rhythm.
Why get ACLS certified?
For some positions, it is a requirement, it will be useful to learn not only outside in the community, but especially in a hospital setting where sick patients may arrest at any time. Its also extremely helpful to do this prior to Emergency Medicine, ICU and Internal Medicine rotations (or any in-hospital rotation), where you may see codes being run. Or, the skills required to pass ACLS (e.g. knowledge of medications used and deadly arrhythmias) are useful for those particular rotations, especially Emergency and Internal Medicine. Plus, it is an excellent asset to have when applying for employment on graduation.
How to Sign Up?
To sign up for the course, go through this website to contact instructors:
Complete ACLS before your clerkship year. Do it before your clinical placements. ACLS is extremely valuable in any hospital setting.
Try your hand at memorizing the ACLS algorithms a week before your 2 day course. Particularly Cardiac Arrest, Post Cardiac Arrest Care, Tachycardia with Pulse and Bradycardia with a Pulse, ACS, and Acute Pulmonary Edema. Imagine going in unprepared, having Day 1 to laern the material, and only one night to memorize everything before practise and examinations on day 2. Its stressful!
Learn EKGs well! (more below)
Do the Practise Test, get a feel for what the MCQ questions are going to be like.
Know the ACLS drugs and the doses / when to use them!
Problem solve in terms of which algorithm you are going to use. Thinking out loud is a good strategy while practising codes. When you notice the patient’s rhythm changes, and they have a change of pulse or no pulse, switch gears and think of which algorithm to use next!
The Handbook has Everything, (see for pic below) that I listed above: algorithms, most up to date guidelines.
Talk to others who have completed it: Never hurts to ask how their experience went!
ACLS Algorithms: ACLS guidelines are constantly being reviewed and updated. At the time of writing, there are 2010 ACLS Guideline
Online: MedU Ottawa has pdfs with ACLS Algorithms available. Full are also freely available.
Study Guides: You can also purchase study guides, however these are not essential to passing the course. The one recommended to me by my ACLS instructor was ACLS Study Guide by Barbara Aehlert.
Handbook: The Heart and stroke Foundation of Canada’s 2010 Handbook of Emergency Cardiovascular Care for Healthcare Providers was the book used by the majority of the course participants at the session I was at. Not only does it containt he necessary algorithms, it fits in your pocket (white coat pocket) and the algorithms are large enough to read – with space to scribble in your own notes. Ask your ACLS course instructor if you can purchase them from him/her.
ACLS Practise Questions: Contact the ACLS course instructor to see if you can have practise tests/questions emailed to you.
Concepts to Review before taking the ACLS Course:
Know the dosages, purposes, and use in the context of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (check the algorithms to see what situations you’d need to use).
Management of Acute Coronary Syndromes (ACS): distinuguishing between a STEMI, Unstable Angina, NSTEMI
A basic understanding of the following rhythms is important to being successful at passing ACLS. The ones denoted with an asterisk are the more deadlier arrhythmias that are covered in ACLS
One book I highly recommend (as well as recommended and used by many of my peers, residents & PAs/MDs) is Rapid Interpretation of EKGs by Dale Dubin. This is a comprehensive easy-to-read and study textbook covering ECGs as well as ensuring that you understand the physiology behind each type of rhythm strip. If carefully read, its very hard not to understand the concepts explained.
What to expect:
Day 1: Learn: One full day of course instruction, including lectures through the algorithms. There are also practical sessions where you can practise airway management on mannequins, running codes (code blues), as well as ECG interpretation
Day 2: Get Tested: Written and practical examination. The written requires an 86% or greater to pass.