Knowing what to expect when you are facing anything new can mean the difference between feeling deep anxiety or confidence. This is no different when it comes to ACLS training and testing. ACLS stands for advanced cardiovascular life support, and it is a continuation of what you would learn during your basic life support (BLS) class.

Whereas BLS mainly teaches basic CPR with compressions and rescue breathing, ACLS builds on that foundation with a focus on reading EKG rhythms, knowing when to intubate and remembering which drugs should be given based on the patient’s presentation and EKG. If you have never taken an ACLS class before and are wondering what to expect, you will find a basic rundown of the class, the study materials and the infamous mega code right here.

The Class

The initial certification class is a full two-day affair with plenty of time to listen to lectures as well as to practice hands-on skills with the teachers and fellow class members. This is your time to ask questions so that you are as prepared as possible for the tests to follow.

The Study Materials

You will need to purchase an ACLS study booklet. Not only will this be a great resource in your health care practice, but also it will give you the algorithms to study. Be sure to pay attention to all parts of the booklet because even questions about leadership may appear on your examination.

The Written Test

On your second training day, you will take a written examination. In general, this test is not terribly difficult as long as you have paid attention in class and have studied your booklet thoroughly.

The Mega Code

Successful completion of your ACLS training will also depend on how you do with your mega code. Most mega codes make use of one of the most commonly seen algorithms during real life codes, such as ventricular fibrillation, pulseless electrical activity or asystole. You will need to verbalize what you should do while also demonstrating basic CPR and possibly intubation.

Train Not Test

While your first ACLS class may seem like a continuation of school where everything depended on your test scores, try to see this class as well as the written test and the mega code merely as helpful training sessions. This will take a great deal of the stress out of the situation and will show you how this training will be able to help you in your everyday practice.

The goal of the instructors at your training session is to give you the knowledge and tools you need to make a difference in real life. They are not trying to weed out as many candidate as possible but are only wanting to help you become the best possible practitioner you can be.

If you are ready to tackle the ACLS course for the first time yourself, consider Project Heartbeat. We offer multiple sessions every year both in our Oakland/Bay Area location as well as in Sacramento. Our initial ACLS training will take approximately 14 hours over the course of two days, giving you time to study on the first evening before taking your written test the next day. Upon successful completion, you will receive the ACLS for Healthcare Providers eCard from the American Heart Association.