As healthcare workers, certification in Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) is essential, especially for those of us who work in hospital settings. The process to become certified in Jamaica is simple. Since becoming certified in July many of my colleagues have been asking me about the process.
In order to do ACLS, you must have a medical background. For persons who are non health care workers the Heart Foundation of Jamaica offers several life saving courses that give lay persons life saving knowledge if they witness a sudden collapse.
ACLS provides you with evidenced based training on how to recognise various problems and perform emergency interventions. Focus is centred on dysrhythmias, emergency myocardial infarction and stroke management and the bread and butter of the course- how to run a mega code.
A mega code is a step up from simple *Basic Life Support (BLS) that uses no pharmaceutical agents to one that does plus a few other things.
How To Sign Up
Prerequisites for the course are that you must be a health care worker, have proficiency in BLS and in recognising dysrhythmias on ECG. Courses are offered on each of these, however you may not have to do them depending on your circumstances. I did not do the ECG course but I did do BLS. Contact the Heart Foundation for more information.
Once you meet the prerequisites you choose a date, you will do so usually one month or so in advance. Then you fill out the information online and pay- currently the course is JMD$22,500.
Preparing for ACLS
After you pay, you will get the course book along with small cards that have the various algorithms on them. You are expected to read through the course material in preparation. In addition to this, you will be expected to do a pretest which you must score at least 70% on. The good thing is- you can try as many times as you want along with a student contract saying you completed the prerequisites. You will also need to purchase a mask or protective mouth piece. The price for the mouth piece is about JMD$500 and the price for the mask is upwards of JMD$2500.
On the Days
There is a comprehensive list of what will be done on the day on the website. Basically, day one reviews you BLS. The Course is divided into two 8 or so hour sessions. You learn through videos and practical sessions. It is paramount that you read your book because while the two days are used for teaching, it is good for clarifying issues and putting information together. Coming with a blank slate is unsatisfactory.
Read the book
Watch videos online- ensure that they are following the current protocols as the guidelines are updated every 5 years or so.
Wear comfortable clothing
Get a good nights rest the day before
Avoid having to go into work on the days
Don’t psych yourself out- the aim of the course it to teach and solidify a concept
Why should I do ACLS?
Becoming certified is beneficial in many ways, for both you and your patients. It improves your quality of care and confidence but can also improve your professional prospects especially when it comes to going overseas.
Do I get CMEs?
Yes, I think 15 hours or so.
What if I don’t want to pay?
If you work in the public sector you can go sponsored by the MOHW. Speak with your head of department or senior medical officer for more information.
Are there any changes since Covid- 19?
Yes, the numbers are less, sanitisation, social distancing and mask wearing are in place. There has been a “backlog” of some sort, so contact will have to be made with the Heart Foundation to see if there are any changes in the schedule.
What is the format of the examination?
Eight minute practical for the megapode where you get a clinical scenario and you go through various rhythms and clinical changes, You are tested on being the team leader- aka the one who calls the shots! Then there is a written test which is 45 questions in 50 minutes. You must pass the clinical scenario with 100% and the written I believe with at least 80+% in order to satisfactorily complete the course.
Where is the course held?
At the Heart Foundation of Jamaica on Beechwood Drive in Kingston Jamaica. They will sometimes go to other parishes as well.
What if I fail?
You will have remediation.
PS. Refreshments and lunch are provided.
Pretest + Student Contract (will be sent by your instructor)
For any other questions please contact the Heart Foundation Jamaica- if you would like more on my personal experience feel free to send me a message here.
Samantha C. Johnson
*This article assumes you know what BLS is.