Basic Life Support
It isn’t something we think about until we really need it, but would you know what to do if you came across someone who had collapsed or who is clearly in medical distress? Those first few minutes in a medical emergency are vital when it comes to increasing the chances of someone surviving. Many people do specific CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) courses but CPR is only one part of that first response as it focuses on the resuscitation of someone who has stopped breathing and potentially whose heart has also stopped. The first response, where applicable should be focused on basic life support to try to minimise the chances that someone’s breathing or heart will stop. In this article, we will take a look at Basic Life Support (BLS) and what it entails.
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What is Basic Life Support?
In a nutshell, basic life support is an initial response to a medical emergency which is aimed at stabilising a patient. For example, someone could be experiencing a medical emergency but still be breathing but choking. Basic life support skills will allow you to assess this situation and take steps to avoid the patient falling unconscious or even cease breathing altogether. In essence, it is a couple of steps before CPR is even needed and aimed at preventing a medical emergency from escalating.
Is BLS and CPR the same?
Although they are quite often used interchangeably, BLS and CPR are not the same. CPR is a subset of BLS. The aim of BLS is to assess a situation and where needed ensure that the patient’s breathing and airways are free and that blood circulation is maintained. That is to say, ensuring that the patient is getting enough oxygen to stop them deteriorating. There is a basic ABC to BLS: Airway control (keeping the airway open), breathing (keeping the patient breathing) and circulation (ensuring that blood is being moved around the body). CPR is used once the patient has stopped breathing “normally” and their heart has stopped beating effectively.
The BLS algorithm is simply a technical term to the steps to take in the event of a medical emergency. There are a few steps to the algorithm:
- Is the patient responsive and breathing? If so make them comfortable and loosen clothing. Keep assessing the situation.
- Does the patient have a reduced level of consciousness or are they unresponsive? If so check and open the airway and check for signs of life (breathing, pulse, etc)
- Call for help from nearby or call the emergency services and get advice
- If the patient is breathing normally put them in the recovery position, keep the airway open and keep assessing their breathing
- If the patient is not breathing or their breathing isn’t “normal”, start high quality CPR immediately. The emergency services can give over-the-phone guidance.
- If an Automated/Automatic External Defibrillator (AED) is available, with guidance from the emergency services on the phone, use the AED as directed
As BLS has a broader scope than CPR, there are specific training courses covering the actions and steps to take before CPR becomes necessary.
At Chris Garland Training we run two dedicated BLS courses; one is for dentists who are required to attend at least 2 hours of CPD training every year in dealing with medical emergencies. The second is a standard 3 hour Basic Life Support course which is suitable for anyone. If you have any questions about the courses or would like to explore joining a course, why not contact us at Chris Garland Training to discuss your needs?