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BLS vs. CPR: What's the Difference?

If you work in a field where lifesaving training is needed, this may have happened to you: you apply for a job that asks for BLS certification—and you wonder if your CPR certification qualifies.

What is the difference between BLS and CPR certification? Is there one?

There is, sort of. But the difference is subtle. The acronym “BLS” stands for Basic Life Support. It basically is CPR certification; however, this term is more often used to refer to the level of training given to healthcare providers rather than the general public.

Adding to the confusion, the term is more common in the UK and other places outside the United States, where it may be used to refer to various levels of CPR training.

In a very general sense, the treatments and actions that fall under “Basic Life Support” are the same as those taught as part of any CPR class. This includes maintaining an open airway, keeping the blood and oxygen circulating in the body of an unconscious patient without mechanical help, and the other actions you would perform when delivering lifesaving CPR.

However, this term can also encompass more in-depth practices you might need in a hospital setting—such as administering oxygen, the team approach to CPR, advanced airway management, and the use of a bag valve mask.

The American Heart Association provides a certification called “BLS for Healthcare Providers” that is designed for medical professionals rather than the lay public. The American Red Cross calls their equivalent training “CPR for the Professional Rescuer and Healthcare Providers.” Two different training programs, each with very similar content—one called BLS, and the other CPR.

There are also CPR training and certification programs that are more geared toward the general public. Lay adult, child, and infant CPR and AED classes are typically designed for people such as teachers, coaches, and daycare providers—not medical professionals, but still people who have responsibility over children and may have to provide lifesaving care. For a more general workplace-safety environment, lay rescuer adult CPR and AED classes are often the most appropriate.

So, in general, if you’re looking at a job description that asks for BLS certification, it’s probably best to take that as an indication that they’re looking for healthcare provider-level CPR training, rather than training for laypeople. This job may be looking for someone with the expertise of a paramedic or nurse.

However, if the job is clearly outside the medical profession—you’re applying to be a kindergarten teacher, for example, or a soccer coach—it’s possible that they don’t actually need that level of certification. In that scenario, it may be worth it to apply with your existing CPR certification, or to call their HR department for additional clarification.

If you need a higher level of CPR certification, it can be a bit confusing to decide which class to take—because some providers use the term CPR even for their certifications geared to a hospital setting. A good rule of thumb is to look for the phrase “For Healthcare Providers” in the title of the class.

At CPRCertified.com, we offer a professional-level certification course called BLS Certification. We also provide a range of classes for non-healthcare professionals at different levels, encompassing AED training, adult and child CPR, basic first aid, and bloodborne pathogens. These are developed by AHA-licensed CPR instructors and based on the AHA core curriculum; and adhere to ARC, ECC, ILCOR, and OSHA guidelines.

If you’re not sure which class is right for you, please get in touch—and we’ll help you decide which certification is right for your situation.


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