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What's the Difference Between
PALS and ACLS Certification


Knowing what to do in a situation when someone’s life is slipping away is a skill that not many people have. Remaining calm, calling for help, following the necessary procedure – these aren’t the things an average person can do without certain training that teaches them how to keep their presence of mind when things go south.

Medical personnel can learn the basics of how to resuscitate a patient with a BLS (Basic Life Support) course, but if they want to go beyond that, then PALS AND ACLS Certification is needed.

If you’ve heard of PALS and ACLS certificates but aren’t sure how they differ or what they even are, we can help you understand. For more info on this subject, just keep reading.

What is PALS?

PALS is short for Pediatric Advanced Life Support. This program teaches medical personnel how to provide life support and treat children. This course is authorized by the AHA (American Heart Association), and it cannot be taken online. The courses for PALS are usually held in a hospital and they are organized several times a year. If you want to take this course, it’s likely that you’ll need to plan everything in advance and remember to apply on time.

In a lot of cases, the healthcare institution where you get hired will provide a PALS course to its personnel, so you might not need to finance it yourself. A PALS certificate usually lasts for two years.

What is ACLS?

ACLS is short for Advanced Cardiac Life Support. Similarly to PALS, this course is also authorized by the AHA, but it’s aimed at adults instead of children. While courses like BLS teach you skills like CPR, First-Aid, and AED, any techniques that are more advanced than these need special training.

This is where ACLS comes in. It will teach you, for example, how to do EKG interpretations to determine whether defibrillation is possible, how to read various intravenous lines, and how to differentiate between drugs that can help stabilize a patient’s condition in critical circumstances.

Just like PALS, the certificate lasts for two years before it needs to be renewed, but it’s possible to do ACLS certification renewal online as long as you choose a trusted provider.

What are the differences?

Obviously, the PALS course is aimed at providing life support for children and infants, while ACLS is aimed at providing life support for adults. The biggest difference between helping an adult and helping a child is the fact that children are a lot more frail and delicate than adults, and they don’t respond to drugs the same way adults do.

For example, performing CPR on a child will look different, because small children have bones that break easily, and applying too much pressure could result in more harm than good. CPR on infants is performed with two fingers instead of the entire palm, and it’s performed at an earlier stage during a cardiac arrest than it would be on adults.

Do I need both?

It depends on where you work, but in general, yes, both courses are needed to make sure you’re fully certified. This is especially important if you intend to work in critical care or emergency care units.

Each of the courses usually takes several days to finish, so it won’t require any extensive preparation to complete these two courses. If you think you already have the knowledge and the experience that’s necessary, you can technically just take the exam and skip all of the tutorials.

Renewal courses tend to be even shorter, so as long as you do them regularly (every two years), you’ll be up to date and able to deliver adequate care to your patients.

Do I need BLS?

Yes, BLS is generally a prerequisite for PALS and ACLS courses. It teaches the basics of life support procedures, and you do need to learn them before you can move on to advanced procedures. An ACLS certificate won’t start from the beginning, and you can’t cover both BLS and ACLS procedures at the same time.

If you don’t yet have your basic life support courses (BLS), you’ll need to obtain it before you can work anywhere as a nurse. Here are some of the things you’ll learn during the course: basic CPR, AHA chain of survival, use of an AED, choking removal for adults and children.

BLS certification also lasts for two years before it needs to be renewed.


PALS and ACLS courses are the next obvious step after completing a BLS course. While BLS is the only course that’s technically required, if you want to advance your knowledge then consider taking PALS and ACLS.

The courses are fairly short and won’t take much time to complete, and the knowledge you gain will be priceless in your work as a medical professional.

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