Additional certifications for nurses: what do you need?

September 16, 2014

Article by Global Pre-Meds
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Students gaining some pre-medical work experience in a hospital in Tanzania. Becoming a registered nurse takes anywhere from two to four years of schooling. After you graduate, you may think you are done with training, but there are many additional certifications you can obtain as a nurse. Before you decide you can’t handle any more classes, consider some common certifications that can be earned quickly. 

BLS: Basic life support involves becoming certified in cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Most BLS classes cover CPR for adults, children and infants. You will also learn what to do if a person is choking and how to use an automatic external defibrillator. BLS certification needs to be renewed every two years by taking a BLS renewal class.   

Who should take it? Almost all nurses are required to take a BLS class before they can start work In fact, you may have been required to earn your BLS certification during nursing school.

ACLS: Advanced cardiac life support certification goes several steps further than a basic life support certification. ACLS involves identifying life-threatening conditions, such as a stroke and heart attack, and following the appropriate treatment algorithm. Algorithms are a series of steps taken during treatment or resuscitation during a particular emergency. You will learn what medications to give during a resuscitation, airway management and when to use a defibrillator.  

Although the timeframe may vary, many ACLS classes are held over the course of two days. A classroom portion and hands-on practice are usually part of the curriculum. Students will need to pass an exam and a “mock” code to earn their certification. ACLS certification is valid for two years and can be renewed.

Who should take it? Nurses who are interested in working in critical care areas should consider becoming ACLS certified. For instance, nurses working in the emergency department, intensive care unit and cardiac care units should be ACLS trained. 

PALS: Pediatric advanced life support is similar to ACLS, but it involves the treatment of pediatric patients. Treating children who are experiencing medical emergencies is different than treating adults. The class covers CPR for children, airway management and medications. Class format is often similar to ACLS with an exam and mock code at the end of the class. PALS certification needs to be renewed every two years.  

Who should take it? Nurses who wish to work with pediatric patients, such as in the pediatric intensive care unit, should become PALS certified. In addition, emergency room nurses should consider PALS certification since critically ill pediatric patients may arrive in the ER.  

NRP: Neonatal resuscitation is another certification available to nurses. NRP covers emergency resuscitation of newborns, including premature babies. Information on maternal risk factors that may increase the likelihood of a newborn needing resuscitation, CPR and airway management is taught. The class usually lasts for one day, with an exam and practical exam administered at the end of the class. The certification is good for two years and has to be renewed.   

Who should take it? Any nurse who will be working with newborns or in labor and delivery should consider taking NRP. Even if your facility does not have a neonatal intensive care unit, knowing what to do in an emergency is advisable.