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What Is the Difference Between BLS and CPR?

Kitty is a registered nurse. She uses what she has learned on the job to inspire and encourage others to take control of their health.


Difference Between BLS and CPR?

Recently, I learned the hard way that there is a difference between the types of classes you can take for BLS (basic life support) and CPR. Although BLS and CPR are very similar classes, there is an important difference that determines which one you should take. If you are going into the healthcare field, you will probably be required or want to take the "BLS for Health Care Providers" class, which is taught through the American Heart Association.

If you are simply taking the class for reasons such as that you want to or you need CPR for being a lifeguard or a babysitter, a general adult/child/infant CPR class can be taken at the Red Cross, as well as the AHA. The best thing to do to determine what type of CPR or BLS class you should be taking is to ask whomever your employer is, or whomever is requiring you to take the class. If no one is requiring you to take the class, you can then take a general Adult/Child/Infant CPR class from the American Red Cross, if you so wish.


What is Covered in the BLS and CPR classes?

What are the main skills covered in the BLS for Health Care Providers, as opposed to a more general Adult/Child/Infant CPR class?

In a BLS class for Health Care Providers, the following skills are covered:

  • Adult/Child CPR with one person performing CPR
  • Adult/Child CPR with two people performing CPR
  • Infant CPR with one person performing CPR and 2 people performing CPR
  • Use of an AED
  • Adult Choking - abdominal thrusts and CPR if victim becomes unresponsive
  • Child Choking - abdominal thrusts and CPR if victim becomes unresponsive
  • Infant Choking - back pats and chest thrusts; CPR if victim becomes unresponsive
  • Rescue Breathing - if victim has steady pulse but not breathing or not breathing normally

In a general Adult/Child/Infant CPR class, you may learn much of this but not all of it and the 2 people CPR techniques will most definitely be left out of the lesson.

From my experience, the BLS class for Health Care Providers given by the AHA was much more informative and to the point. The Adult/Child/Infant CPR class that I've taken through the American Red Cross was good, but dragged on and doesn't cover the areas you may need to know if you are indeed going into the health care field.

So again, the moral of the story is to know why you're going to get certified in BLS/CPR. If you are required to become certified by an organization, you will want to double-check with someone from the organization to determine exactly which BLS/CPR class you need to take. If you are not required by an organization to take the class, then you can simply choose a general CPR class of your liking.

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Good luck!

This content is for informational purposes only and does not substitute for formal and individualized diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed medical professional. Do not stop or alter your current course of treatment. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.


Kitty Fields (author) from Summerland on January 08, 2012:

Thanks, NurseNancy. That is why I stressed the importance of checking with the class or business that requires the person to take a BLS/CPR class. Actually, my school doesn't accept any other organizations except for American Heart. They don't even accept Red Cross. And I'm well aware that BLS and CPR are the same thing, if you read through my article, I mentioned that the only difference is in the TYPE of class you could take (such as for health care providers or lay rescuers, etc.)

nursenancy on January 08, 2012:

Just to set the record straight. Yes there are different types of CPR classes. BLS simply mean Basic Life Support as opposed to Advanced Life Support. Nurses, Doctors, EMT's or Mom's, Babysitters, Factory workers or Child Care Providers can all take BLS. The difference would be in the type of BLS class. There are BLS classes for Health Care Providers such as Nurses, EMT's etc and then there are BLS classes for Lay Rescuers such as Child Care workers. They are all CPR classes. Yes you should check on the type of CPR class that is required by your employer. Most times a nurse would have to take BLS for Health Care Providers although sometimes depending on the situation of where the nurse works, a Lay rescuer class may be all-right. An example that would come to mind may be a school or camp nurse where the sophisticated equipment necessary to perform Health Care Provider BLS may not be present. On the flip side a Nursing Assistant may or may not be required to have Health Care Provider BLS CPR depending on their setting. The biggest problem that I see is when someone who does not need BLS for the Health Care Provider takes that course. They are led that way when they inquire, often, to simply fill the class. The problem is that they will be getting lots of additional information that they do not need (which can lead to confusion) and will never use in their setting. AND they will be shown equipment and shown how to use this equipment that they don't have access to.(Such as an Ambu bag.) On the other hand a Health Care Worker may waste their own time taking a Lay rescuer class when their area of employment requires a Health Care Provider Class. So check before you take a class and be certain that you are taking the correct class for your level of education and setting that you need it for.

Also there are several training agencies out there, Not just Red Cross or American Heart Association. There is one called American Safety and Health and another called Medic First. All are accepted classes.

Kitty Fields (author) from Summerland on December 20, 2011:

SJ - Yes, essentially it's the same thing, but for my school if I just took the Red Cross's CPR, they won't accept it. It has to be BLS for Health Care Providers by AHA...weird, right?

The Lion Queen on December 20, 2011:

Man, is it cool that I didn't know this? I always just took the class I was told, and the end. I didn't know there was a separate CPR and BLS class, it's essentially the same thing. I'll tell you what, it just boils down to paperwork and beauracracy in the end. Either certification is just a piece of paper until you need to use it. And here I am on a 10 am rant...I must need a snack. :-). Great hub, kitty.

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