The ABCs of Credentialing and Life Support Certification

The ABCs of Credentialing and Life Support Certification

Mar 9, 2020
  • Author:
    Kay Lynn Akers, CPCS
    Former VerityStream Employee
    With over 30 years of health care experience, Kay Lynn Akers brings direct insights into the challenges of the evolving industry. During her tenure at VerityStream, she has provided clients with consulting and services to assist in deploying new solutions, identifying process improvements using solution best practices and designing solutions to meet the needs of organizations across the industry. Her healthcare contact center and care provider background establishes her record of shaping solutions for clients with projects ranging from optimizing processes and software for maximum efficiency and service to supporting large consolidations.

This post is based on a webinar presented by Vicki Searcy, Vice President of Consulting Services with VerityStream and Wendy Crimp, Senior Consultant.

Credentialing professionals need to know about establishing and maintaining requirements for basic life support. It is an important patient safety concern that health care staff and physicians can recognize and immediately respond to an emergency.

The Alphabet Soup

There’s a whole alphabet soup of certifications and sometimes a lack of clarity on which each represents.  We’ve all heard of BLS, ACLS and PALS most likely but there is NRP, NALS, ATLS, CoSTR and PEARS. As Vicky Searcy pointed out “It really behooves us to understand what they mean so we can use them appropriately in our policies, procedures and other requirements.”

Traditionally organizations required all clinical and medical staff be certified in BLS and then targeted providers for certifications in ACLS, PALS or NPR and ATLS. This provided a level of comfort that providers were appropriately certified.

Even though a provider has certification, proficiency is a concern if they don’t have the opportunity to practice their skills.

The emergence of Code Blue Teams that responded to housewide codes 24/7, team members did have the opportunity to perform ACLS functions on a daily basis.  According to Wendy Crimp “a new paradigm .. emerged with the code blue team having the ACLS or PALS certification … the general clinical and medical staff are BLS certified and then you have ACLS requirements or advanced life support credentials of some sort for specific privileges.”

The field of resuscitation science has definitive evidence based protocols. ILCOR (International Liaison Committee on Resuscitation) is the international group that issues the guidelines. Two certifying bodies that follow these are the American Red Cross and the American Heart Association. Searcy stated “If you choose either one of those or both of those, you can be assured that your people in your organization are going to have appropriate certification.”

American Red Cross offers many types of basic life support, not only for medical professionals but also for the community.  In the hospital setting, the three most relevant certifications are basic life support, advanced life support and pediatric advanced life support.

American Heart Association also offers options for both the community and health care providers.  In addition to the three listed for American Red Cross they offer the PEARS (Pediatric Emergency Assessment, Recognition and Stabilization) course.

Verifying Life Support Certifications

If you require life support certifications either as a privilege criteria, policy or bylaws, it’s important to verify the impacted providers attain and maintain it. Per Crimp consider the benefits and downside when selecting the options for verification timeframes.  Is it important to target all your management systems to enforcing expiration or is it more important that the certificants review skills and recertify every two years?

In summary, key recommendations are to:
  1. Don’t unnecessarily limit the organizations from which providers can obtain certification.
  2. Determine what providers must be certified and the type of certification they must hold.
  3. Determine timeframes for validation of certification.
  4. Determine the method of validation (submission of a card or confirmation via integration with the certifying organization).