ACLS Study Guide: Three Tips for Success
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Health Education Solutions, the leading online provider of Advanced Cardiac Life Support certification, offers these tips to help you make the most out of your ACLS certification course and prepare for the ACLS exam.
1. Use mnemonic devices to remember key algorithms. In ACLS, algorithms are a simple set of procedures that help you solve a treatment problem. Mnemonic devices can help you remember the steps to saving a life. Here are a few examples from the ACLS course:
• If a patient displays bradycardia (an unusually low heart rate) remember “Pacing Always Ends Danger:” TCP (transcutaneous pacing), atropine, epinephrine, dopamine. Just remember, these are options for treatment of various forms of bradycardia, and not an ordered list. Usually atropine and epinephrine are tried first, then depending on the situation dopamine may be used and pacing is last. If the situation is acutely life-threatening, sometimes temporary pacing is indicated.
• If a patient experiences cardioversion (an unusually rapid heart rate) remember “Oh Say It Isn’t So:” O2 saturation monitor, suctioning equipment, IV line, intubation equipment, sedation and possibly analgesics.
Mnemonic devices trigger faster recall, which is vital in emergency situations. The six H’s and five T’s are the most common mnemonic devices in ACLS – required learning for your ACLS exam.
The six H’s
• Hydrogen ion – Acidosis
• Hyper- or Hypokalemia
The five T’s
• Tamponade – cardiac
• Tension pneumothorax
• Thrombosis – coronary or pulmonary
2. Know your pharmaceuticals. When performing ACLS, intravenous (IV) drugs are sometimes needed, and it’s important to know which drugs are pertinent in which situations.
• Adenosine: An anti-arrhythmia drug often used for stable supraventricular tachycardia.
• Amiodarone: Used when a patient is in v-fib (when the heart does not empty and contractions are mild quivers that cannot sustain life) or v-tach (when the heart is pumping too fast).
• Atropine: Treats bradycardia (low heart rate) by blocking the vagus nerve.
• Epinephrine: Increases cardiac output by momentarily decreasing blood flow to the limbs, which increases the blood output from the heart.
• Lidocaine: Used to treat a ventricular arrhythmia (irregular heart rate) often preventing the heart from providing oxygenated blood to the body. New ACLS guidelines also recommend procainamide here.
• Magnesium Sulfate: An anti-arrhythmia drug used for torsades de pointes, a peculiar and rare ventricular arrhythmia. It is otherwise seldom used unless a person is low in magnesium, or in other non-cardiac clinical conditions.
• Procainamide: An anti-arrhythmia drug used to counteract a variety of arrhythmias.
• Vasopressin: Administered to increase cardiac output and improve circulation to vital organs.
Health Education Solutions offers an ACLS Pharmacology Guide, available free to all ACLS students for use when preparing for the ACLS exam.
3. It all comes back to CPR. In 2010, guidelines for CPR transitioned the A-B-C (Airway-Breathing-Circulation) approach to a new C-A-B (Circulation-Airway-Breathing) approach. The emphasis is on quickly initiating chest compressions in individuals with life-threatening loss of heart function so that blood flow is maintained. It primarily applies to single rescuer CPR. In the hospital setting and with teams, management of circulation and respirations are achieved simultaneously.
While memory aids and mnemonics are helpful when mastering ACLS material, the best preparation tool is confidence. It’s important to use course materials as an ACLS study guide to prepare effectively and thoroughly for the exam.
Health Education Solutions is the leading provider of online ACLS certification and recertification for healthcare professionals and first responders. ACLS and PALS courses, which now incorporate 2010 patient care recommendations, were developed in partnership with Union College. Read more about how the 2010 guidelines impact ACLS online training.
For more information, click here: Your ACLS Study Guide