Call us now: 1-844-CPR-CERT (277-2378)

Guide to Basic Life Support


by Dr. Mary Williams, R.N. D.C.

The term "basic life support," also known as BLS, is used in the medical field to distinguish the types of medical care necessary to sustain someone's life until they can receive more detailed care. These skills are most often utilized by EMTs, paramedics, triage nurses, and anyone who has received BLS training. This type of medical treatment is needed in order to sustain someone's life in the event of a medical emergency. Some examples of when BLS would be needed include choking, cardiac arrest, or a near-drowning.

There are three main components that someone would want to check when performing BLS. These are circulation, airway, and breathing. First, the patient's circulation would need to be checked by making sure their heart is beating properly so that blood can pump to the organs. In some cases, chest compressions may need to be performed to ensure that blood is circulating throughout the body. Their airway also should be checked for any foreign objects, sputum, or vomit to make sure that they are able to get air to breathe. And finally, breathing should be checked to ensure that the patient is getting vital oxygen into the lungs and the body.

Any time someone is experiencing a medical emergency, an assessment should be done immediately to determine if BLS is needed. First, find out what the emergency is and call for help. Next, administer the proper procedures, such as CPR, the Heimlich maneuver, or in some instances the use of a defibrillator. Most people who have completed BLS training should be able to administer these types of medical assistance without much help. There should always be a swift check for danger in the area and a check that the patient is responding. It is essential that someone send for professional medical help as soon as possible to minimize any time without proper medical attention.

If you witness someone experiencing a medical emergency, first, ask them if they are OK. If there is no response, find someone who can help perform the BLS procedures as soon as possible. Each situation is different and may require more advanced help, such as tilting the patient's head back to ensure they are breathing or dealing with someone who is hypothermic. The inability to speak aloud and the inability to breathe are both definitive signs that a patient is dealing with a very serious medical emergency and should get assistance immediately.

In order to be BLS-certified, one must attend courses and pass a series of tests. These training courses are relatively short in duration and are often offered at a fairly minimal cost. In fact, some organizations will offer free CPR classes for new parents and medical students. People who deal with children, the elderly, or the sick must have some kind of BLS certification before they can work in these environments. This helps to ensure the safety of everyone and is essential to ensuring that students or patients can be helped in the event of a life-threatening emergency. In most BLS courses, there is no need for medical devices. The instructor will teach the basic maneuvers needed to sustain life, such as CPR, abdominal thrusts, and chest compressions.

A dummy is often used in BLS classes as a stand-in for a real human patient. This dummy is used to simulate what it would be like when dealing with a real human. Students must practice on the dummy in order to show their ability to perform basic BLS functions. There is also a brief written exam that demonstrates the students' knowledge of basic BLS practices. Once the student has demonstrated that they are knowledgeable in the different areas, they are issued an official certification showing that they have passed the course and can perform life-saving functions on a patient in need. Knowing how to recognize the signs of someone in medical distress and then being able to assist them can mean the difference between life and death in many instances.

For more information about basic life support, or BLS, please refer to the following websites: