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Too good to be true: Online recertification

Slick marketing for BLS, ACLS and PALS training can mean they’re scamming you

I am a tireless advocate for the incorporation of online education into initial and continuous education for EMTs, paramedics, and firefighters. Research has consistently shown that an online lecture is just as effective as a face-to-face lecture and that hybrid courses, a combination of online and face-to-face instruction, is often better than face-to-face instruction alone.

I also frequently advocate for time and cost savings opportunities from online education — learn from home, train in while staying in your service area, and reduce overtime costs.

Many of the benefits I advocate are worked into slick marketing websites for online BLS, ACLS and PALS recertification. These websites promise a 100 percent online training program without a skills test that is based on AHA guidelines and saves time and money.

A CPR certificate without a skills test — now how can that be?

Consider work requirements

If you are considering one of these certifications, proceed with caution and carefully understand your employer’s requirements for certification or credential maintenance. Also, check your state’s regulations for maintaining an EMT or paramedic license.

Before purchasing an online BLS, ACLS or PALS recertification product, ask your employer if a certification without a skills test would put your credential at risk. Next, check with your medical director. Is she OK with you having an ACLS card that does not have a skills test component?

I have been repeatedly contacted by an ACLS online certification provider and offered a $50 commission for referring paying customers to their training program. I have asked for details on how their online training programs meet state and NREMT guidelines for EMT and paramedic recertification. My emails have gone unanswered.

Protect yourself from scams

When considering an online training program, look for:

  • Biographies and credentials of the subject matter experts that have developed the program
  • Accreditation by national organizations, like the Continuing Education Coordinating Board for EMS (CECBEMS)
  • Course material that is accurate, up-to-date and relevant to prehospital care
  • A hands-on practice and skills assessment component for any certification that has a motor skill component, such as chest compressions and ventilations

Finally, visit this website, a public service announcement from the Health & Safety Institute, about online-only CPR or first aid certification scams.

Remember: When it sounds too good to be true, it almost always isn’t true.

Greg Friese, MS, NRP, is the Lexipol Editorial Director, leading the efforts of the editorial team on Police1, FireRescue1, Corrections1 and EMS1. Greg served as the EMS1 editor-in-chief for five years. He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a master’s degree from the University of Idaho. He is an educator, author, national registry paramedic since 2005, and a long-distance runner. Greg was a 2010 recipient of the EMS 10 Award for innovation. He is also a three-time Jesse H. Neal award winner, the most prestigious award in specialized journalism, and the 2018 and 2020 Eddie Award winner for best Column/Blog. Connect with Greg on LinkedIn.