The main difference between certification and recertification is the level of experience of the person getting certified. BLS certification renewal is usually done by someone who has already gone through training once and still holds a valid BLS card (as some standards and guidelines state that an expired card requires first time training). Initial certifications, on the other hand, are usually for those who have never been certified before or have not been certified for a specified time after their first certification has expired (usually 2 years).
The actual content presented in these two trainings may or may not vary. First time certification courses can last up to 8 hrs while BLS recertification courses can last about half the time with the same trainer. BLS renewal also has fewer constraints when it comes to using online BLS certification companies.
Most healthcare providers are required to have BLS certification. Because of this requirement, most training companies have a designated healthcare provider (HCP) level BLS certification card. However, many long-term and experienced healthcare providers find BLS renewal tedious and unnecessary. This frustration is amplified in high skill-level professions such as MDs, EMTs, and other professions where the simplicity of BLS makes it an inferior medical process in comparison. Despite the relative simplicity of BLS for these individuals, they are required to renew BLS every two years along with the most inexperienced of medical students (sometimes in the same class).
However, it can also be argued that there is a necessary standard of quality that must be maintained in the healthcare field. If requiring that all professionals hold a valid healthcare provider BLS certification is the most certain way to ensure that nobody slips through the cracks and ends up failing to rescue, then annoying a few doctors may be a small price to pay.
While the rate of change is slow, BLS procedures, standards, and teaching guidelines do change as ECC/ILCOR science researches new methods to optimize a victim's chances of survival. These updates are worked into initial BLS training and are conveyed in BLS renewal training, making it important for healthcare providers to stay current. As confidence and experience are not problems with many healthcare providers, these updates could be effectively conveyed through an online medium. While the process of ensuring the quality of this type of training is still being explored, some unique approaches have already emerged. A few online companies allow their courses and changes to be accessed freely at any time, allowing a professional to get updates even before their next renewal. ProCPR.org actually e-mails refresher segments and updates to students as they are published. While it remains to be seen if this type of education will become the dominant type of BLS recertification, its effectiveness should not be discounted.
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