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CPR vs. BLS: What’s the Difference?

| Last Updated on September 21, 2022

Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) and Basic Life-Support (BLS) are similar types of training that can prepare you to save a life! Certifications are not necessary to be competent in either, but are highly regarded and required by certain occupations and volunteer positions. You can be certified in either, or both. 

Let’s take a closer look at both types of training!

What is CPR?

CPR is a method for manually pumping blood to a person’s vital organs and breathing air into their lungs when their heartbeat or breathing has stopped. CPR training courses teach people how to help victims of Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) in non-medical settings while awaiting emergency responders to arrive and take over. CPR can help save lives and minimize the damaging effects of SCA that can occur while waiting for emergency responders, such as brain injury. 

The compression rate for high-quality CPR is between 100 and 120 compressions per minute.

There are two types of CPR, Hands-Only CPR and conventional (or traditional) CPR.

Conventional CPR

Conventional CPR involves a cycle of chest compressions and rescue breaths. For adults, the correct rate of one cycle of CPR is two breaths for every 30 compressions. For smaller children and infants, if there are two rescuers delivering CPR, the cycle is two rescue breaths for every 15 compressions. However, if there is only one rescuer, two breaths every 30 seconds is acceptable. That way, the rescuer can perform CPR for longer without becoming too exhausted to continue. 

Learn more about the differences between giving an adult, child, or infant CPR.

Hands-Only CPR

Hands-only CPR simply involves pushing hard and fast on the center of the victim’s chest. It does not include delivering rescue breaths, like standard CPR does. The purpose of hands-only CPR is to get blood pumping through the victim’s body until paramedics arrive on the scene. 

CPR Classes

Anyone can become CPR certified by taking classes from organizations like the American Red Cross or the American Heart Association. Often, people with the following jobs might need to become CPR certified as a term of their employment:

  • Teachers, camp counselors, coaches or anyone who works with youth
  • Lifeguards
  • Certified nursing assistants
  • Construction workers
  • Etc. 

Most CPR classes  use a combination of lecture instruction and hands-on practice to cover the following:

Sign-up for a CPR Class

Learn How To Do CPR

What is BLS?

According to the American Red Cross, BLS generally refers to the type of care that first-responders provide to anyone who is experiencing cardiac arrest, respiratory distress or a blocked airway. CPR is one component of BLS training.

BLS includes CPR and AED training, as well as how to treat foreign-body airway obstruction (choking), and is taught from the perspective of providing care in a medical setting. BLS is a prerequisite among many health and public safety organizations, as well as licensing boards.

BLS Classes

BLS classes are typically designed as foundational courses for health care providers and first responders, such as: 

  • Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics
  • Nurses
  • Firefighters

Content typically covered in a BLS course includes:

  • Chain of Survival
  • Rapid assessment and visual survey
  • Adult, child and infant CPR & AED training
  • Multi-rescuer team CPR
  • Relief of choking
  • Ventilations using various types of devices
  • Critical thinking, problem-solving, communication and teamwork
  • Emergency medical services system overview
  • Legal considerations
  • Precautions

Some BLS courses may also cover issues related to other emergencies such as opioid-associated life-threatening emergencies.

Sign-up for a BLS course near you. 

Learn more about the difference between Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) and Basic Life Support (BLS).

The Difference Between BLS & CPR

The main distinction is that BLS is more comprehensive and is geared toward medical professionals and first responders, whereas CPR and AED use are skills anyone can learn.

Certification

A certification document is proof of your capability with a particular skill set. Being certified in CPR or BLS means that you’ve been trained, educated and are prepared to perform the lifesaving skills taught in the course. 

To become certified in CPR or BLS, you must attend an accredited class, learn the methods involved, and pass a test. CPR and BLS certifications need to be renewed every two years from the completion date for safety assurance. Both types of certification classes typically only require a few hours. 

Conclusion

Being BLS certified or CPR certified looks great on a resume, but the primary benefit of both types of training is that they prepare you to save a life! You never know when or where Sudden Cardiac Arrest will strike. It is a massive public health problem, killing about 350,000 people in the United States each year! 

Thankfully, there are things individuals can do to improve SCA outcomes in their communities.Learning CPR or BLS to arm yourself with lifesaving skills is a great first step, allowing you to respond quickly, properly and confidently when emergency strikes.  

Cardiologist Dr. Safwat Gasis describes why bystanders matter so much in SCA emergencies. Everyone should be trained in CPR or BLS.

Learn more about how Avive is working to improve SCA outcomes in communities across the U.S.

Content Team

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