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Should EMT Basics Take the ACLS Course?


Every now and then we receive calls from EMT Basics that are interested in taking the advanced cardiac life support certification course. The number one question is if the course is too advanced for EMT’s at a basic level. The answer to this question is both yes and no. It will be yes for some students and no for others depending on the experience and background of the student.

For EMT’s that are in an EMT Basic class or who have just finished and EMT Basic class, I would advise against it. Students who are taking the advanced cardiac life support course should come to the class with a basic knowledge of ECG interpretation and emergency care pharmacology. This is not something typically covered in an EMT Basic course and consequently the student without this knowledge will come to class lacking some very important fundamentals.

In addition, the anatomy and physiology components of an EMT Basic course are not extensive. Students who lack basic A&P understanding will further be challenged with the study of the heart’s parts and behavior and how respiratory emergencies correlate with the heart and rest of the body. Taking an ACLS course unprepared can be like visiting a foreign country that you know little about. You may have some Mexican friends, but that is quite different from having to navigate your way through Mexico, having never been there and not being able to speak the language.

For EMT basics that have completed their course, are already certified and have a bit of experience, ACLS “might” be a way for the basic to improve their knowledge base about advanced life support. It really depends on what kind of work and academic experience the individual has. If the EMT Basic has experience working on an ALS rig, then the ACLS provider course should be somewhat digestible and not overwhelming. However, even with this level of experience the EMT Basic student interested in taking the ACLS course should consider taking a basic ECG and basic pharmacology course in order to get the most out of their ACLS training.

EMT’s come from a wide variety of backgrounds and this is the biggest factor that should be considered when taking the ACLS course. The more EMS experience the better, in addition to the above mentioned courses which you can often take at a community college. The ACLS initial provider course is 16 hours and provides continuing education credits (CEU’S) for EMT’s at the basic, intermediate and advanced levels.

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