I have taught ACLS and related skills since 1980. click here to see me teaching this material in Nepal.
Okay, so this is just my opinion, but on the other hand, I have been around. Recently, a senior nursing student told me she was looking for a job on The Mainland, maybe in ICU. I asked her if she was comfortable with ACLS, and she replied “What is that, anyway?”
Welcome to the world of Initials!
On the right hand column of this blog is a link with the title “Did you ever wonder what PHTLS stands for?” and I guess the first thing for me to say is, on that site you can find a guide to all the possible initials and credentials for critical care, that have ever been invented. Your nursing education is not over just because you graduated from nursing school, and if you want to work in something really high-tech, it is inevitable that you get some kind of qualification to do so. The Nurse’s Guide to Alphabet Soup is a great resource and introduction to all of this.
If you have to ask, it is not a good sign
I was glad she asked me before she applied for the job. When you apply for a job, the employer expects that the applicant be familiar with the requirements. If the job requires ACLS and the applicant were to give that answer, the interview is over. it will stop right there.
TIP about reading job ads
For a lot of job ads, they will list a very specific picture as to what they are looking for. If the job to which you are applying has a list, in bullet-points, of skills and qualifications, it is a good idea for your response to go right down the list of bullet-points and provide concrete evidence that you meet each one.
Back to ACLS
Not too long ago in clinical, there was an emergency involving a patient who was not “one of ours” – i.e., not assigned to one of our students. I had listened to morning report on the person, (I always listen to all the report) and there had been nothing to tip us off that he was about to have a problem. It was nearing the end of the clinical time and we were doing our charting when the staff nurses rushed into the nurse station to get the Crash Cart. I knew what that meant, so I jumped up off the chair and followed them. The man in question was having a respiratory arrest. The staff nurses called for the Code Team to arrive, and in the meantime I took his carotid pulse, while the staff nurse got oxygen going and started bagging. Then I helped hook up the chest leads for the heart monitor, get the hard surface under him, get an IV started, etc.
Some students had trailed me into the room and stood in the corner, watching this unfold. The man survived and was transferred to ICU.
Naturally, the post-conference was dominated by discussion of this event. One student said; “I want to know how to get a nursing job where I do that?”
Oh, to be young again…..
Be prepared for a pearl of wisdom
Here it is: the goal is to not do ACLS if you can avoid it. Act before the person has a cardiac arrest. The goal is to identify in advance, every situation that might deteriorate in to an arrest situation, and to convene the Rapid Response Team to address the issues before the patient’s breathing stops. The more clever you are at this, the better the nurse you will be.
The fact is, we are conditioned by medical TV shows to think of the dramatic aspects of health care, the high tech response that salvages somebody who is right at the very Brink of Death, staring into the precipice of Doom. The TV shows emphasize the heroic nature of this work, and the rest of us overlook the depersonalization that comes with high tech medicine. It’s exciting and glamorous. Most of health care is not actually like that, though, and the dramatic events are followed by a long recovery in which attention to detail is needed and progress may be slow.
For that reason, when nursing students ask my advice about doing critical care, I usually try to gauge their ability to make and use a Nurse’s brain, and to perform diligent physical examination, along with their maturity level. Excessive enthusiasm about using ACLS skills, as if it is the only thing that happens in critical care, is actually a sign of inexperience.
Oh, and by the way, the man at clinical did just fine and was discharged from ICU after a day or two.
What do you think? I promise to answer any questions related to this topic…… fire away!