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ACLS Nurse: Why it’s Essential for Critical Care Nurses to be Certified

Higher Education Articles September 28, 2013

Advanced cardiac life support, or ACLS, is a step above basic life support. Nurses in emergency rooms (ERs), intensive care units (ICUs) and other areas where patients are at high risk of emergency health developments often need ACLS certification as part of their positions. This certification may be gained from a qualified nursing school.

What Types of Procedures does an ACLS Nurse Perform?

A nurse with advanced cardiac life support skills will often be called on to give patients life-saving emergency drugs, perform intubations, perform other airway management procedures, stabilize blood pressure and heartbeat, and perform other related procedures.

While most areas don’t require these nurses to be directly supervised by a physician, they do need a doctor’s orders to provide treatment. Many critical care units have stood orders to avoid delays, but some do not.

What Types of Facilities and Departments Use ACLS-Certified Nurses?

Nurses working in ICUs typically need this certification. Some ER nurses will need it, as well. Certain other critical care facilities or departments may also require nurses to be ACLS certified. In general, any situation that involves patients that are likely to need emergency cardiac or respiratory support will also involve ACLS nurses.

What are ACLS Classes Like?

Nurses taking an ACLS certification class will learn about and practice several advanced procedures that may need to be performed. These courses do not teach algorithms, pharmacology, or ECG reading – nurses seeking ACLS certification should already have the background needed to understand these aspects. The ACLS class is usually a single event lasting a full day.

While each school’s programs will vary slightly, it is reasonable to expect many simulations of emergency situations during the classes. Teamwork will also be emphasized since many hospitals use this format for their critical care nursing staffs. The final simulation will be of a mega code that will test the students’ understanding and implementation of basic drug therapy, algorithms and arrhythmia interpretation.

Is it worth it to get an ACLS Certification?

According to Jacksonville University, the median annual salary for a staff RN working in the ICU was $68,111 in 2010. This compares with a median of $64,690 for RNs of all types. This salary difference is relatively small, but it still is about $3,500 more per year, which is nothing to sneeze at.

Even so, it is likely that the ACLS certification’s main benefit will be the doors that it opens. Those with the credential will be able to apply for positions that would otherwise not be available. This can mean the difference between having a job and not having one in areas where there is heavy competition for general RN slots.

The job outlook for RNs, in general, is good, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicting twenty-six percent growth. This growth is higher than average when compared with the overall job market.

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