(BLS) stands for Basic Life Support. In healthcare, it’s a term used to refer to a wide range of non-invasive interventions used in a medical emergency. This includes CPR, spine immobilization, bleeding control, basic first aid, initial stabilization of bone fractures, and more.
BLS certification is also a type of CPR and first aid certification, usually for healthcare providers—although different training organizations may vary in how they use these terms.
Is BLS a Certification?
In the CPR and healthcare certification context, BLS is a term often used for a CPR and emergency first aid certification for healthcare providers. It typically offers more in-depth training in CPR and first aid than a layperson CPR course.
For instance, our online BLS Certification course includes CPR for single-rescuers and teams; OSHA-compliant bloodborne pathogen training; and basic life support for victims of shock, drowning, drug overdoses, stroke and other maladies.
Once you earn your BLS certification, it usually lasts two years. This is the standard set by the American Heart Association for their BLS certifications, and ours is also a two-year certification.
Of course, that means once every two years, you need to get recertified. Here’s how the process works—and the difference between BLS certification vs. recertification.
CPR Renewal vs. Recertification
Sometimes “renewal” and “recertification” are used interchangeably, but they can also have different meanings. When renewing a CPR or BLS certification, you’re updating your credential before it lapses—whereas the term “recertification” can be used to mean getting certified again from scratch after it has been allowed to lapse.
Depending on which program you’re earning your certification from, there may not be much difference between renewal and recertification.
In the past, The American Heart Association offered a shorter course for those renewing their BLS certification, but they’ve stopped offering that option since 2016. These days, there’s only one BLS certification course through the AHA, and you retake the entire course every two years.
The Red Cross, however, does offer a shorter BLS recertification program for those renewing their certification.
We offer only one BLS certification course, which is suitable for initial certification, recertification and renewal. However, students can skip video lessons they already know and focus only on the lessons where they need a refresher—so you can essentially design your own abbreviated course for recertification or renewal.
The Difference Between “BLS Provider” and BLS Renewal
Some training programs title their BLS certification programs “BLS for Healthcare Providers” or “BLS for Providers” to differentiate them from more layperson-oriented certification and training programs.
Depending on the training organization, there may or may not be a difference between the BLS for Healthcare Providers certification and the renewal or recertification program. The AHA doesn’t have a difference, for instance; the Red Cross does.
There are many other organizations that offer BLS certification programs based on AHA guidelines, and each one structures their initial certification and recertification programs a bit differently.
If your provider offers a shorter course for recertification or renewal, it’s common for this course to be about half the length of the initial certification course—although this may vary depending on the provider.
To qualify for the more abbreviated course, training organizations usually require a BLS certification that’s still valid and close to expiring.
CPR and BLS Renewal and Continuing Education
Many healthcare professionals are required to earn a certain number of Continuing Medical Education (CME) credits throughout the year. The number of credits you need will vary depending on your position, your employer, and your state and industry requirements.
Earning a BLS certification or recertification may count toward your continuing education credits. Check with your employer or industry organizations in your state to determine whether that’s the case for your job, and how many credits you can earn through certification or recertification.
CPR and BLS Renewal Online
The AHA has now incorporated online learning into their programs, and you both earn and renew your BLS card either in person or online. If you choose the online option, however, you have to take an in-person skills test.
If you want to earn your certification entirely online, however, there are some great options—and you don’t have to sacrifice quality of training. Our online BLS certification program offers AHA-compliant training designed and delivered by a highly-qualified AHA-certified instructor.
Our certification is accepted by employers in all 50 states and internationally, including employers in the healthcare industry.
So the difference between BLS certification and recertification depends on the program. With some, the recertification is a different course that may not take as long to complete; with others, there’s no difference. The right option for you depends on your schedule, your employer’s requirements, and what you’re hoping to get out of the course—a quick refresher or a more thorough review.